February, 2017

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After her first year of college studying in Iowa, Ali Carlson knew she wanted to make a change. She had previously looked at Concordia College in Moorhead and felt like that’s where she belonged. Carlson, who grew up in Farmington, wanted to choose a college closer to home — one that would provide a high value for the investment. She transferred her sophomore year to Concordia College and has never looked back.

When Carlson was first looking at schools she noticed a major difference in the size of classes between private nonprofit colleges and public universities. She was drawn to the smaller class size and concerns about cost didn’t need to be a barrier. “For me, because of financial aid, it was more affordable to go to a liberal arts college than a state school,” Carlson said.

Now a senior at Concordia, Carlson is a communications major; she is on the Campus Entertainment Commission and sings in the choir. She works on campus at the information desk as well as off campus at a community theater. Carlson receives a Minnesota State Grant award, which is based on financial need, and has an academic scholarship. She also has taken out student loans.

Carlson credits the financial aid office for helping make Concordia possible. “The financial aid people were great,” said Carlson. “They did everything they could to help me go to school here.” Carlson’s mom, Nancee Erickson, agrees. “The financial aid people at Concordia are wonderful,” Erickson said. “They helped us a lot with the FAFSA and helped us make it work.”

Carlson’s whole family is helping support her college experience. Erickson and Carlson’s father help with her daily expenses. “We help make sure she can focus on her school,” Erickson said. “We help her with her car, her phone — the day-to-day things.” But it’s not just Carlson’s parents pitching in. “I’m in the choir and the music lessons aren’t included in tuition. Another family member helps me pay for these lessons,” Carlson explained. “I also have some family members who will send me money if there’s something I need.”

Her mother has some advice for families looking at college: “Don’t be discouraged by the higher price tags of some of private colleges — if it’s the right fit for the student they’ll make it work.”

by Tom Lancaster