By Elizabeth Dang

As an out-of-state student and the oldest of four, I was obliged to take out a student loan to attend the University of Missouri and acquire a journalism bachelor’s degree.

The tuition of attending the University of Missouri as an out-of-state student is an estimated $41,136, including room and board. With three other siblings receiving a private education, my family copes with the responsibility of paying a hefty price for our education.

With 43 million Americans juggling student loans, I know I am not alone. Because my parents and I did not qualify to receive financial aid from Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), we scrambled to formulate a plan. Being a part of the middle class, I have recognized issues with FAFSA. Although $120 billions of federal grants, loans, and work-study are granted to students, the overly complicated financial aid system is neglecting many students. Simplifying the FAFSA application would allow more students to take advantage of financial aid and receive higher education. While FAFSA aids those with lower incomes, the middle class and upper-middle class also need assistance.

Although there is no solution to bypass the difficulties of FAFSA, applying for scholarships and grants have allowed me to attend the school of my dreams. Because my parents and I did not qualify to receive financial aid from Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), we scrambled to formulate a plan. Being a part of the middle class, I have recognized issues with FAFSA. Although $120 billions of federal grants, loans, and work-study are granted to students, the overly complicated financial aid system is neglecting students. Simplifying the FAFSA application would allow more students to take advantage of financial aid and receive higher education. While FAFSA aids the lower class, it is difficult to disregard the middle class and upper-middle class.

Although there is no solution to bypass the difficulties of FAFSA, applying for scholarships and grants have allowed me to attend the school of my dreams. Schools have created more scholarships that are veered towards the middle class. Many California schools have created Middle-Class Scholarships (MCS) to provide financial aid. MCS is awarded to undergraduate students with a family income of up to $184,000 and assets up to $184,000. Students can receive between 10% to 40% of the tuition.

Depending on the school, MSC awards can be valid for up to 4 years. Applying to such scholarships grants the opportunity for students to attend well-respected universities by relieving the financial strain. Additionally, schools, including the University of Missouri, provide loans for students and parents. Fortunately, for the school year of 2020-2021, I received a direct unsubsidized loan of $5,500 (the maximum for the first year), a direct parent loan of $36,880, and the Mark Twain Scholarship. Academically based scholarships allow for students to take advantage of merit. Though you may not receive a full ride, a majority of students receive scholarships to encourage them to obtain a higher education.

Receiving the Mark Twain Scholarship and applying to multiple other aid opportunities enabled me to, hopefully, graduate with a valued degree. Additionally. loans tend to be frightful and confusing, about 30% of undergraduates graduate with no debt and 25% with less than $20,000.

The anxiety of taking student loans causes many to shy away, but only 6% of students owe more than $100,000. Taking out a loan is always an option, even if it may not seem reasonable, it is. Attending a university is a privilege, especially an out-of-state university. I have personally been allowed to receive an education that will develop my journalistic skills and abilities and become the best. But I could not have done it without the financial and moral support of my family. Although my situation is not severe, it is common enough.

Dang is a freshman at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.