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For many college-bound students, the process of seeking out grants, scholarships and financial aid doesn’t start until their senior year in high school (see Credible’s “Financial Aid Prep” timeline for a month-by-month breakdown of milestones in the process).

In Washington, low-income middle school students who dream of attending college have until June 30 of their 8th grade year to apply for a state-sponsored College Bound Scholarship program that helped 19,000 students attend college last year.

What’s the point of requiring kids to sign up for a college scholarship when they’ve still got four years of high school in front of them? To inspire students who otherwise might rule out college as beyond their means to prepare for it instead.

Students who apply pledge to graduate from a Washington high school with at least a 2.0 grade point average, not be convicted of a felony, and apply to an eligible college and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine their income eligibility.

Those who graduate from high school and enroll in college within one year can count on the state covering their tuition and some of their fees, along with a small book allowance.

In 2015, 75 percent of students enrolled in the College Bound program graduated from high school, compared to 62 percent of low-income students who were eligible for the program, but failed to apply, the Washington Student Achievement Council reports. It’s the fourth year in a row the program has racked up those kinds of numbers.

The $61.5 million lawmakers set aside for the program in the latest two-year funding cycle lets students seek certificates or degrees at public community and technical colleges, public four-year colleges and universities, independent colleges and universities, and private career colleges. About 56 percent of College Bound recipients attend Washington public and private four-year institutions, and 43 percent go to two-year colleges, WSAC says.

Word about the program has spread. More than nine out of 10 eligible eigth graders signed up last year, and 77 school districts signed up 100 percent of eligible students, according to WSAC.

The need for such programs is clear. Last year researchers with the American Council on Education noted that low-income students were much less likely to enroll in college immediately after high school than they were seven years ago, and that the percentage of low-income students attending college was up only 3 percent from 20 years ago.

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Citizens Bank Student Loan Rate Disclosure

Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate ("LIBOR") published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of May 1, 2019, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.48%. Variable interest rates range from 4.45%-12.42% (4.45%-12.32% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Fixed interest rates range from 5.25%-12.19% (5.25% - 12.09% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Lowest rates shown requires application with a co-signer, are for eligible applicants, require a 5-year repayment term, borrower making scheduled payments while in school and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of the loan.

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