Paying for College
There are a number of resources available to assist students in covering the cost of education. As you explore the various financing options, you should also consider ways in which you can reduce your college-related expenses. We’ve compiled the following advice to assist you.
Complete the FAFSA to find out if you are eligible for financial aid. Certain types of financial aid (such as the Federal Pell Grant) do not have a deadline, so it is never too late.
Be sure to apply on time EVERY year!
Be sure to research all sources of financial aid. Visit FAME’s scholarship search, or other sites such as FastWEB or The College Board. It is also important to research civic organizations, parents’ employers, military, as well as high school guidance offices.
Avoid scholarship scams. FREE scholarship search services provide excellent information.
Many students are able to earn several thousand dollars during the summer before heading to college. It is important to work and SAVE for college. At a minimum, all students should be prepared to buy books and supplies. Books can cost as much as $1,500 per year.
Save money that you receive from friends or family for graduation or other holidays or events, as these monetary gifts adds up over time.
Control Room & Board Costs
- Can you live at home and commute to school? Doing this could reduce your room & board charges to substantially.
- Will living off campus with a roommate save you money?
- If you are living on campus, don't pay extra for a single room - get a roommate! Choosing to live with a roommate could save you thousands every year.
- If you eat on-campus, choose a meal plan that works for you. Don’t pay for more than you can eat. More importantly, if you have a meal plan, use it. Don’t pay for food elsewhere!
Save on Travel
- Do you have to bring your car? If you live on campus, you may want to forego the expense of a car, as you can walk to all of your classes.
- Gas, insurance, car repairs, parking permits and tickets (some student’s park in the wrong place) all add up.
Save on Books & Supplies
- Buy your books early and buy them used.
- Consider buying your books online and save hundreds!
- Can you use a dorm or campus computer instead of buying your own? If you feel you have to have a computer, is it possible to purchase a used or refurbished one? Check with the computer lab on your campus and see what they do with older computers that still work.
Consider the Power of Credit Transfer
- Why not attend a community college for a couple of years and then transfer to your dream college?
- Credits earned at a less-expensive college or university can often be transferred and applied toward a degree at another school and you could earn your degree at a fraction of the price.
- Many schools have articulation agreements that specify which community college course credits will be accepted toward a bachelor's degree at certain four-year colleges or universities. This is not necessarily an option for all colleges/degrees, so do your research first.
Benefit from In-State Tuition
- Being a resident of a state may give you benefits that could dramatically reduce your tuition costs at state colleges and universities.
- Consider the fact that your travel costs may also be lower.
- You may be eligible for in-state tuition without being a resident. Some state university systems have agreements with neighboring state systems to offer reduced tuition rates, especially if you want to major in a program that is not offered at your state school(s).
- Some states also have reciprocity agreements that can save you money. If you want to attend a school in a neighboring state, contact the office of admissions at the college to see if there are any discounts, including reciprocal in-state tuition rates. Visit http://www.nebhe.org/ for more information.
- If tuition is charged per credit, can you save money by taking fewer credits?
- Does your school have a flat tuition rate; would you be able to accelerate your courses at no extra charge?
- Discuss this with the financial aid office, because changes to your enrollment status could impact your financial aid.
Accelerate Your Degree
- Accelerated classes allow you to complete a semester's worth of material into six- or eight-week sessions. The classes, while intense, can help you graduate sooner.
- Tuition in an accelerated degree program can sometimes be half the cost of a traditional degree. Some schools offer bachelor's degree programs in three years instead of four.
- An accelerated degree program is a great option for a student with a clear career goal. If you're ready to work hard, why not put your college education on the fast track?
- Did you take college courses while in high school? If you received a “C” or higher as a grade, you may be able to receive credit at your college.
- Check with your college to find out if your college courses will count toward credits in your intended major. You will need to send the college a copy of your college transcript.
Did you take AP Courses While in High School?
- If you received a high score on your AP exams, you might be able to get course credits at your college or one or more classes waived.
- Check with your college to find out if your scores will count toward credits in your intended major. One school may accept minimum score while another may require a higher score.
College Level Examination Program (CLEP)
- Students can cut their tuition costs by earning college credits for taking this exam.
- Some colleges may let you take the CLEP test to receive college credit.
- There is usually a $65 fee to take one of these tests (free to military service members), and the results could save you thousands of dollars in tuition.
Visit or call the financial aid office at your school, as they are a valuable resource and can assist you with researching financing options.
Be sure to report any special circumstances or changes (such as unemployment or high medical bills).
You should also ask about ways to receive more aid in the future and report any outside scholarship awards.
Tuition Payment Plan
Many colleges offer tuition payment plans that allow you to divide the annual or semester cost into monthly payments. Spreading the cost of tuition over the course of five, eight or ten months is sometimes all that it takes to get the bill paid. Payment plan counselors also assist families with calculating the bill.
Employer Based Tuition Assistance Programs
Many companies offer tuition reimbursement or assistance as an employee benefit for both employees and their dependents.
These plans often cover from 50% to 100% of tuition and fees for certain courses. Be sure to report any assistance from an employer to the Financial Aid Office.
Federal PLUS Loan for Parents & Graduate Students
The Federal PLUS Loan Program is a fixed rate, credit-based loan available to parents of dependent undergraduate students and graduate students. Borrowers can request up to the cost of attendance minus any financial aid. Repayment begins 60 days after loan is fully disbursed, with possible in-school deferment options available. The interest rate is fixed at 7.9% and loan fees are subtracted from the principal amount of each loan, up to 4%. PLUS Loans are available to biological parents, stepparents and adoptive parents of an undergraduate student who is enrolled in school at least half-time.
Alternative (Private) Education Loans
These private loans are offered through private lenders and should only be considered as a last resort. Generally, the student is the borrower and is required to provide a creditworthy co-signer. Approval is based on credit history, credit score and in some cases, debt to income ratio. Interest rates are usually variable and are typically higher than federal loans. Alternative Loans are one of the most expensive types of financing and should only be considered after all other federal financial aid has been exhausted.