Identifying the Gap

by DCU |

Sometimes, the Financial Aid offer you receive might not be enough to cover your college expenses. That’s why it is important to identify the gap between how much Financial Aid you’re receiving, and what you owe your school.

Once you’ve exhausted all of your Financial Aid options, there are other ways that you can bridge the gap between what you owe, and how you’re going to pay.

The first thing you should do is figure out the net price of what you owe for school – this is the total of all of your expenses. 

Then, locate the cost of attendance on your Financial Aid offer. Make sure this includes the amount that you will pay the school directly (for things like tuition and fees), as well as other costs such as living expenses, books, supplies, and transportation. Some of these expenses may be estimated, but it will give you a good idea of what you are going to end up paying. Subtract the grant and scholarship amounts on your Financial aAid letter from the cost of attendance, and also deduct any savings that you have available to put toward your school costs for the year. The remaining amount is your net cost, or what you will need to pay out of pocket.

Now that you know how much money you need to pay, you can decide if you want to take out a federal or private student loan to cover the difference.

How Do Federal and Private Student Loans Compare?

  • Federal student loans: Loans are funded by the federal government. The terms and conditions to the loan are set by law, and include many benefits such as fixed interest rates and income driven repayment plans.
  • Private student loans: Loans that are nonfederal loans, made by a lender such as a bank, credit union, state agency, or school. The terms and conditions to these loans are set by the lender.

For more information on the differences between federal and private student loans and how you can close the gap, visit

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