Many recent news stories focus on students graduating from college with loads of student debt. How can our regional students obtain the education they need after high school and avoid being a part of these scary statistics?

First, let’s unpack financial aid. Everyone is eligible for some form of financial aid.

Students are now able to fill out financial aid forms (FAFSA) for the following year starting Oct. 1. High school seniors who complete the FAFSA are 84% more likely to enroll right after graduation in further education.

Some students are eligible for federal or state grants that do not need to be repaid. Many are offered work study jobs that give them the ability to earn money between classes and build workforce skills.

Federal student loans come in two types: subsidized (no interest gained while the student is in school) and unsubsidized (interest accrues immediately). Both of these types of loans are not due for repayment until the student is out of school for six months.

At both NWTC Marinette and UW-Green Bay, Marinette Campus, individuals are available to help students and families complete online FAFSA forms to make it an easier process. In many instances, tax information can be automatically loaded into the form.

A second way to help pay for college is scholarships from campuses like ours and from community organizations. People might assume scholarships are only for students who excel academically. However, a variety of scholarships can help students who are involved in community service, who have identified a particular major, whose parents work for a certain company, or who are trying to make a fresh start.

Lastly, tuition reimbursement is offered by many area employers. This opportunity provides those who want to better their skill set or shift gears in their careers the support they need to obtain a new credential.

All of these financial options are available to students whether they are part-time or full-time and no matter what age they are.

Regionally, we can change the story about the cost of college and student loan debt. By choosing to take classes at NWTC Marinette and UW-Green Bay, Marinette Campus, students receive their college education at a lower tuition rate than many other institutions. Applying for financial aid, seeking out scholarships, and asking employers about tuition reimbursement can reduce these costs even further.

Jennifer Flatt is the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College Dean. Cindy Bailey is the UW-Green Bay, Marinette Campus, Campus Executive Officer.