Resources for College

I. Why Attend College?

OPPORTUNITY: Making the choice to go to college is as important as choosing what college to go to.  Having a college degree opens many doors and provides a plethora of opportunities.  Relying on a high school degree limites your choices professionally and in turn hinders where you would like to be career wise.

FINANCIAL STABILITY: Four-year college graduates earn almost twice what non-graduates earn, as reported here in the New York Times. And for those concerned about piling up debt to get a degree, take a look at this analysis by MIT economist David Autor. Autor calculates that not going to college will cost you about half a million dollars in lost income over your lifetime. That's much more than the average graduate's debt: $25,000.

II. Deciding Where to Go

Choosing a college can be a very important decision - one that can involve a lot of time and research.  Going to a college with a big name or a great sports team may seem very appealing, but that doesn't mean it will be a place where you will fit in and be happy.  When trying to decide where to go, here are some questions you should be asking yourself:

Where do I want to go?  Do I want to stay close to home and be near my family, or move to a new environment?

Do I want to take most of my classes on campus or online?

Do I want to go to school in a city or a small town?

What kind of campus am I looking for?  Would I feel more comfortable in a large campus or prefer a smaller school?

What do I want to study?  What schools offer majors and minors I want?  Are there specialized programs available that interest me?

Do I want to study abroad at some point?  What kind of study abroad programs are available at this school?

What can my family and I afford?  What does each school offer in terms of grants and scholarships?

Does this school have a work-study program?  Can I get a job while in school?

What kind of clubs and student organizations are available?  What kind of activities can I participate in while attending this school?

COLLEGE SCORE CARD- To find the school that meets your needs, the U.S. Department of Education offers a quick-search, information card based on the type of college you are looking for; your program, the location, size of the institution, etc. The information card offers a breakdown of the school’s average annual cost, their graduation rate, and the salary after attending. To get started, access the Department of Education's ScoreCard.

Still deciding where to go?  The factors above are certainly important, but if you are looking for a more specific analysis of the economic value of a college education, read this article by Brookings Institution. The article takes a closer look at factors such as the average return-on-investment to expect when earning a college degree and what to expect of student debt.

The article also includes this analysis of the economic value of going to a particular school.  The analysis looks closely at three measures:

The average earnings of graduates in the middle of their career.

The kinds of jobs these graduates get into and what those jobs earn on average.

The number of graduates that can make their student loan payments on time within three years of graduation.

The analysis found that it is not just the big name colleges that produce big pay-offs for graduates.  To take a closer look at schools that interest you, see their College Value-Added Data Explorer.

III. Paying for College

A. Getting Started

One of the first steps in paying for college is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  You will find out the amount of aid you're eligible for, and can work with the school to which you apply to arrange financial aid.  The FAFSA is available online at

Beginning October 1st 2016, the FASFA can be filed three months earlier than it could traditionally. High school students will now be able to complete their application in the fall of their senior year rather than waiting until the following spring. Students and their parents will also be able to use income information from the previous year's tax return instead of waiting for the next year's tax season.

For more information on these changes, please refer to this news release from Scholarship America.

B. Grants and Scholarships

Pell Grant - The Pell Grant is a funded program for students with financial need.  Awardees are generally undergraduate students who have not earned a bachelor's or a professional degree.  Unlike a loan, Pell Grants do not have to be repaid and are based on financial need.  For more information, please visit the Pell Grant section on the Federal Student Aid website.

TEACH Grant - Through the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007, the U.S. Congress created the TEACH Grant Program that provides up to $4000 per year to students who are majoring in a high-need field and intend to teach at an elementary or secondary school that serves students from low-income families.  More information can be found on the TEACH grant section of the Federal Student Aid website.

Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) - The FSEOG is a federally funded program applied through the institution.  Awards are between $100 to $4000 depending on the financial need.  More information can be found on the FSEOG section of the Federal Student Aid website.

Gates Millennium Scholarship - The Gates Millennium Scholarship awards outstanding African Americans, American Indian/Alaska Natives, Asian Pacific Islander American, and Hispanic American students with financial need through funding by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

APIASF AANAPISI Scholarship - The APIASF Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution scholarship supports Asian, Native American, and Pacific Islander students pursuing a post-secondary education at specified institutions.

APIASF General Scholarship - The general scholarship for the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund is open to qualified Asian American and Pacific Islander students.

Truman Scholarship - The Harry S. Truman Scholarship is a highly competitive, merit-based award offered to U.S. citizens who want to go to graduate school in preparation for a career in public service. The scholarship offers up to $30,000 to apply toward graduate study in the U.S. or abroad in a wide variety of fields. More information can be found on the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation website.

C. Local Scholarships

Educational Assistance Grant (EAG) - The EAG Grant is awarded by the CNMI Scholarship Office to qualified CNMI residents (on-island or abroad). The program awards up to $750 per semester, or $500 per quarter. College students in priority fields are entitled to extra assistance, as well as Juniors and Seniors with a 3.5GPA or higher. The CNMI Scholarship Office also administers the following programs:

  1. Commonwealth College Access Grant (CCAG)
  2. Marianas Employees Financial Aid (MEFA)
  3. Graduate School Student Loan (GSSL)

Saipan Higher Education Financial Assistance (SHEFA) - Pursuant to Local Law 13-21, the SHEFA Office awards qualifiying students up to $800 for on-island students and $1,200 for off-island students. The SHEFA office also offers extra financial assistance for students in a priority field and/or Juniors (and above) with a 3.5GPA or higher.

Tinian Municipal ScholarshipThe Tinian Municipal Scholarship provideds funding to students from the island of Tinian.  Recipients of the scholarship agree to return to Tinian upon completion of their education program to work for the community.

Saipan Chamber of Commerce ScholarshipThe Saipan Chamber of Commerce Educational Scholarship Fund is a one-time $2,000 award to six individuals who demonstrate academic and personal excellence.

Tan Siu Lin Foundation ScholarshipIn an effort to promote higher education in the CNMI, the Tan Siu Lin Foundation awards 10 qualified Northern Marianas College students $1,000.  Awardees are comprised of five students in the Hospitality Management program and five in other degree programs.

D. Federal Student Loans

Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized LoansDirect loans (sometimes referred to as Stafford or Direct Stafford Loans) are student loans made available to help eligible student cover the cost of higher education at a four year university or college, a community college, a trade school, a career school, or a technical school.

Subsidized Loans are available to undergraduate students with financial need.  The U.S. Department of Education pays all interest on Direct Subsidized Loans while the student is enrolled at least half-time during the six month grace period after leaving school. Interest is also paid during periods of deferment.

Unsubsidized Loans are available to both undergraduate and graduate students, and there is no requirement to demonstrate financial need.  The student is responsible for paying interest accumulated while in school, during the grace period, and periods of deferment.  Any accumulated that is not paid during these periods will be added to the principal balance of the loan.

More information can be found on the Direct Loan website and the Federal Student Aid website.

Perkins LoansPerkins loans are made available by schools participating in the Federal Perkins Loan Program to students with exceptional financial need. Funds are determined by the student's financial need and the availability of funding at the participating school.  More information can be found on the Perkins Loan section of the Federal Student Aid Website.

PLUS LoansParent PLUS loans are federal loans that a parent or guardian can borrow on behalf of the student.  Graduate PLUS loans are borrowed by the graduate student.  The maximum amount that can be borrowed is based on the student's total cost of attendance (determined by the school) minus any other financial aid.

The PLUS loan is available to schools participating in the Direct Loan program.  More information can be found on the PLUS Loan section of the Federal Student Aid Website.

E. Specialty Programs

ROTC - The Reservce Officers' Training Corps is a college program that trains commissioned officers for the United States Armed Forces.  In addition to their required coursework, students enrolled in the program take elective courses in leadership and the military that will prepare the for their career.  The program also offers many scholarships that assist students with paying for their college education.

Army ROTC Program Website

Air Force ROTC Program Website

AmeriCorpsAmeriCorps is a federal service agency that promotes public service.  The program offers education benefits in the form of financial aid to help pay for a college education.  Services provided by AmeriCorps range from teaching at-risk youth to responding to disasters.

Service in any one of AmeriCorps' three main programs will make a student eligible to receive financial aid in the form of an AmeriCorp Education Award.  These programs are AmeriCorps State and National, AmeriCorps VISTA, and AmeriCorps NCCC.  Volunteers are also eligible for forbearance on student loans while performing national service.

For more information on AmeriCorps and these programs, please refer to the AmeriCorps website.

National Health Service Corps - The National Health Service Corps is a federal organization that focuses on bringing healthcare to underserved communities.  NHSC offers scholarships to students pursuing a career in primary healthcare.  The scholarship pays for tuition, required fees, and other educational costs.  Recipients also receive a monthly living stipend.  In exchange for each scholarship year, the student commits to one year of service at a NHSC-approved site in a community with limited access to healthcare.

A loan repayment program is also available to people working in a primary healthcare field such as medical and dental care.  In exchange for a two-year commitment, members can get up to $50,000 to repay health profession student loans.

More information can be found on the National Health Service Corps Website.

Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE)The Western Undergraduate Exchange is one of many student exchange programs offered by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.  This program is available to students who are residents of a WICHE state and allows the student to request a reduced tuition rate of 150% of the school's resident tuition rate.

For more information, please refer to the Western Undergraduate Exchange student website.

To search for schools participating in the Western Undergraduate Exchange, please search using the WUE Database.