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Financial options for the college-bound

Bard College is by no means the only school looking at alternative student aid. According to sources at the College Board and the NAICU, here are some others: Academic scholarships: A recent survey shows that 75 percent of American private colleges and 90 percent of public colleges offer scholarships based on academic merit. Students taking advantage of these ``no need'' scholarships amount to 3 percent of the total enrollment at these schools.

Low-interest loans: Some colleges offer special low-interest loan programs for families that don't qualify for need-based federal loan programs. Pennsylvania's Dickinson College offers loans of $2,500 a year at below market rates with a requirement that only the interest on the outstanding principal be paid while the student is in college. It also offers loans of up to $7,000 a year, with payment extended up to 13 years. Some colleges, either individually or in consortia, issue bonds to create loan capital.

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Middle-income assistance: Those families making less than $30,000 a year automatically qualify for student loans from Uncle Sam. Beyond that, a scattering of colleges offer special scholarships and loans designed especially for middle-income families.

Family plans: At a variety of schools, students can get rebates or lower tuitions when more than one family member -- of any generation -- attends the college.

Tuition remission for academic achievement: While not yet a widespread practice, some campuses offer students with good academic records a tuition reduction.

Off-hour rates: An increasing number of colleges are lowering the charges for courses taken during the evening or weekends.

Aggressive student employment programs: With the increase in student-loan obligations, many more colleges are exploring special ``learn and earn'' programs that help students find summer and part-time career-related positions. This would include jobs both on and off campus.

Help for the unemployed: Students with one or more unemployed parents are eligible for aid in some colleges.

Cooperative education: Over 900 colleges combine formal studies with off-campus career-related jobs that help defray college costs. Some programs allow students to alternate semesters of work and study -- or work part time while studying.

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Tuition reductions for minority students: Minority students, especially those majoring in science and engineering, are eligible for substantial amounts of aid at most colleges and universities.

An excellent resource is ``Don't Miss Out,'' by Anna and Robert Leider, which details 40 innovative student-aid programs and the schools using them. Contact Octaneron Press, PO Box 3437, Alexandria, Va., 22302.