The college of choice has made – an exciting day for any senior. The Federal Assistance Student Financial Aid (FASFA) form has been completed and the financial award along with scholarships has been accepted.

Yet, the family is still a little short financially.

The final puzzle piece may be the Canton Student Loan Foundation, which has been in existence since 1922, helping thousands of the students and their families pay for college.

Canton Student Loan Foundation Executive Director Kim Leggett said the process for applying for the loan has already started.

"The application process is live on our website – www.cantonstudentloan.org," said Leggett. "They will see a button that says ‘apply now.’ The student will download the application. The application is five pages. All pages and information must be completed and returned by June 1 (through the website, email or dropped off in person).

Leggett said applicants can start to turn in the information as the student/family complete the forms. 

"We will need the FASFA, tax return and the estimated family contribution," Leggett said. "We also ask for two letters of recommendation from coaches, employers or teachers, but no family members. We also need the student’s final official transcript in June from their high school.

"The loans we grant are to Stark County graduates. A student must have an overall 2.0 GPA from high school and be enrolled full-time in a college/university (12 hours). Our denial rate is extremely low (less than 2 percent)."

Leggett advises parents and students to take a look at their potential financial needs now rather than wait until May. She emphasized the absolute drop deadline is June 1. After that, no more applications will be accepted.

Once all the applications have been turned in, the 24 board of trustees members meet and make their decision regarding loans. If students are to receive a loan, they will be asked to come to the Canton Student Loan Foundation the third week in July.

"Our board of directors along with our board of trustees interviews each student," said Leggett. "If they were approved, they receive their loan check that day. It is our board’s favorite thing and they have the student’s best interested at heart. The board members smile handing over these checks."

Leggett said students are typically nervous when coming in for the interview but said the student should really relax. The interview is really just to get to know the student and hear his/her plans.

"The interview process is a tradition dating back to when the loans were first handed out," said Leggett. "We have kept that tradition alive."

Leggett said students are eligible to receive a $3,000 loan each of their four years in college for a total of $12,000. If a student does not need help his freshman year, he/she can apply their sophomore year and get $4,000 for three years to equal $12,000. No student can receive more than $12,000. The loan goes in the student’s name and the student must have two co-markers (co-signers).  That can be the student’s parents or combination of parent and grandparent/relative.

"The minute a student stops going to school or graduates, the student must start to repay the loan," said Leggett. "When a student graduates, the student will pay $100 back the first year, $150 a month the second year and $195 a month the third year and stays at that rate until the loan is paid off. When the student is in school, the loan is interest free. The effective rate of the loan is typically a mere 1.5 to 2 percent. "

Students and/or parents can begin paying back on the loan at any time. A student could pay $25 or $50 a month all through school and this lowers their overall loan and that is interest free said Leggett.

Leggett said typically the Canton Loan Foundation grants loans to 400 to 450 students a year which includes repeat students. Each year, the foundation is loans $1.6 million to students. Leggett said the foundation has awarded loans to the same family with multiple kids in college. Each child must apply individually.

"This really is a pay it forward foundation," said Leggett. "We have a revolving door of funds. We have no default loans. Our repayment rate is 99.8 percent. Stark County families realize we could not do this without them."

The Canton Student Loan Foundation also accepts donations. Leggett said they do receive yearly donations from businesses and families. 

"Every donation goes to the students. One hundred percent of our donations goes to students and nothing goes for operational."

For more information, call 330-493-0020, email info@cantonstudentloan.org or visit the website at www.cantonstudentloan.org.