50 Top Colleges for African Americans

Our exclusive ranking yielded some surprises and some staples. And this year, after we show you the best schools, we take a comprehensive look at how to make college affordable.

are estimated at $44,844.

According to Jean Farnsworth, Emory’s associate director of financial aid, 14% of the 1,890 aid applicants for the 2004—2005 school year were black. “All of our aid awarded is need-based,” she says. “Emory wants students who are qualified to come. The school does not want money to be the deterrent.”

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is used by nearly all colleges and universities in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Education to distribute aid to students based on financial need. Filled out yearly, the information students report on their FAFSA is used to calculate their family’s financial strength based on their income and assets.

Unlike FAFSA, the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE — the College Board’s aid application service, used by more than 600 schools and scholarship programs — requests information about home equity and also makes allowances for things such as debt against the home, private school tuition for a younger sibling, and medical expenses. For example, a family of four that earns $50,000, owns a home, and has some equity is different financially from a family of four that makes $50,000 and rents.

With financial aid, Williams has only to pay for his food, books, transportation, and personal expenses. He takes on this responsibility himself, to lessen the burden on his parents, through an on-campus federal work-study, a job with the student newspaper, and by cutting hair in the lobby of his residence. “I do this so I don’t have to ask my parents for money all the time,” he says. “They’ve done more than enough with just raising me.”

Getting the most out of financial aid

With no repayment required, grants can greatly offset the cost of a college education. The U.S. Department of Education estimates that in 2007, Federal Student Aid (FSA) programs will distribute $12.7 billion to fund Federal Pell Grants, $770.9 million for Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), and $980.4 million for the Federal Work-Study Program.

Students should keep the following in mind when applying:

Be mindful of deadlines. You could be penalized if your application is late.oooTurn in all requested documents. “If we’ve asked for it, we need it. We’re not just trying to be nosy. We want the information to make an award,” says Jean Farnsworth, associate director of financial aid for Emory University.

Take some personal responsibility. Know how to apply for aid and be an active and informed participant. The goal is to understand your package and be able to talk about it. “It’s much easier to help a student that is aware than for us to help a student that says, ‘I don’t know, my parents do that,’” Farnsworth says. “Students need to be a part of the process.”

Know your financial aid counselor. During your first few weeks, stop by to introduce yourself. Don’t be afraid to visit the office when you are not having an issue. When there is a problem, remain courteous. And if you don’t understand, ask for further clarification.

Don’t let costs be a deterrent. If you really want to

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