Affording USD

Tools to help families with financing their USD Education

Raise Me is a free program for students that allows them to work toward what will hopefully be a merit scholarship.  We incentivize grades, extracurricular involvement, and test score performance by assigning a dollar value to each activity.  Students can follow their progress, and if they “follow us”, apply on time, are accepted, and have certain minimum grades and scores, we will “cover” their earnings with institutional financial aid.  In most cases, this will be a merit scholarship, but it can include any type of institutional gift.

Sage Scholars is a savings and/or investment program that families can belong to.  Sign up can be through the site directly, or some employers offer plans and they sign up through work.  Basically, families put aside money into an account that is designated for college.  It is reported on the FAFSA, but our agreement is that whatever a family has saved (there is a limit), we will honor with institutional gift over the four years (total earned/4).  Students indicated us as a school, we get a list of them and once admitted, we check to make sure the student has received the matching award.  We typically enroll only a small number (5 – 10 in any one year).

“A 529 plan is a tax-advantaged savings plan designed to encourage saving for future college costs. 529 plans, legally known as “qualified tuition plans,” are sponsored by states, state agencies, or educational institutions and are authorized by Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code.”  These are considered “assets” for purposes of FAFSA filing and are dealt with on the Financial Aid side of the house.

Say Yes to Education is a CBO run in part by Jacques Steinberg, former NY Times Education Reporter.  They operate in two cities – Buffalo, NY and Charlotte, NC.  They identify students in middle school and “guarantee” them money for college if they meet specific criteria (grades, attendance, etc).  Participating schools agree that they will offer students who qualify at least a full tuition award for four years if they select us as their school.  Our goal was to use one of our COE awards if we have any students who qualify.  This year we actually have our first.

Financial Avenue is a money management tool that includes a series of short videos on everything from how to complete the aid process, all the way through how to invest for retirement.  It is intended to be for current students, but has some good content for new students, too.  Currently, it is on the FA website, but we will be meeting soon to see how we can roll it out and promote to prospective students, too.