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How to go to college from the coulee

It’s possible to get an education and emerge debt-free


People in our area may be under the impression that it’s almost impossible to further their formal education beyond high school without moving, going into debt, and/or spending hours each day commuting to Moses Lake or Spokane to take community college classes. But there are ways around these deterrents.

Federal Student Aid is an office in the U.S. Department of Education that offers financial aid to lower-income students in the form of grants, which, unlike loans, DO NOT have to be paid back. The program offers more than 150 billion dollars to millions of students each year to help them further their education.

Students who are considered dependents need to fill out their guardian’s income in addition to their own on the application for financial aid, whereas independent students simply need to fill in their own. The application also factors in whether someone has dependents, a spouse, expenses, and more.

Those who qualify for financial aid are then offered a number of grants and loans which they can accept or turn down. Grants are free money you don’t have to pay back, as long as you pass your classes, whereas loans would create a debt you have to pay back.

The amount of grant money you receive depends on your income as well as which school you are attending, how much their tuition costs, and how many classes you register for. The amount is typically enough to cover tuition and books, and maybe even some extra cash to help cover living expenses.

Financial aid is even available for those taking online college classes. Many community colleges in the state offer fully accredited online classes that can be taken from anywhere with internet access, without ever needing to visit the campus or needing to leave the coulee. Standard classes such as math and English are available, as well as a wide range of classes on topics such as history, the sciences, anthropology, psychology, philosophy, art, and more. Other accredited colleges are also online.

If you are looking to move to another city to attend a college in person, financial aid may provide the money to cover tuition and books, while you take responsibility for living expenses such as food or the security deposit and first month’s rent typically necessary for housing.

So it is entirely possible to attain a two-year associate of arts (AA) degree while living in the coulee area, and without going into any debt. It is even possible to go beyond an AA degree by utilizing the internet and/or financial aid with other colleges and/or internships.

Attending college online requires individuals to be personally motivated and have a quiet workspace in which to concentrate, be that at home, the local library, or otherwise. Professors are available for help by email, and can also find the time to speak on the phone. College advisors are widely available to help with the paperwork involved in applying to college or other questions about the process.

Applying to community colleges is easy. Simply look up a school you would like to attend, fill out the application form, and send it in. Many community colleges in Washington use the same generic application form, and when you fill it out, you can send it in to multiple colleges at the same time if you are still deciding on which one you want to attend.

Financial aid can be applied for through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid website at, where there is much more information. It is wise to apply as soon as possible to be eligible to receive funds for the quarter you plan to start taking classes. It’s never too early to start the process, both in applying for financial aid or to college, for the 2017-18 school year. The state and the college each have their own deadlines, which are often months before the quarter starts.

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