How Can I Pay for College?
College is expensive, and as tuition rates increase, many students are finding it difficult to pay for the cost of college. These expenses don’t just include tuition; there is room and board, transportation, textbooks, and more to think about. But, the good news is there are several strategies out there, some that can be used together, that can help make a college education attainable. Here are some avenues you may be able to pursue to help pay for college:
The First Places You Should Start
Before you consider other options, it is advisable to start with these; there are a few reasons why, but what it boils down to is that these options may save you the most money. Here are the first places you should start with:
Apply for FAFSA
FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. FAFSA is the primary application for all federal student aid, which includes federal student loans, grants (like the Pell Grant), and work-study programs. As the name suggests, this application is free and can be completed online. Here are some options you may be able to find under FAFSA:
- Direct Subsidized Loans — These loans are available for only undergraduate students who can demonstrate financial need. While the student is enrolled on at least a part-time basis, they won’t have to pay interest. And there is a six-month grace period after graduation.
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans — These loans do not require financial need and are options for professional, graduate, and undergraduate students. Interest accrues from the very beginning, regardless of enrollment status.
- Direct PLUS Loans — Direct PLUS loans are options when other federal financial aid is not enough to cover existing costs. What separates these from the loans above is that parents of graduate and professional students (as well as the students themselves can apply). Along with that, credit history will play a role in eligibility.
- Direct Consolidation Loans — This is a loan consolidation option for multiple federal student loans. This way a student borrower only has to worry about a single payment and interest rate.
- Grant Options — There are grant options that you may be eligible for, which you find out about qualification by simply filling out an application. A couple of examples include a Federal Pell Grant and the TEACH Grant.
Look Into Independent Grants and Scholarships
Another thing you should consider is applying for independent grants and scholarships.
Grants are typically need-based financial aid, meaning they are awarded based on the financial need of the student or the student’s family.
Scholarships are typically merit-based, meaning they are awarded based on qualities such as academic achievement, athletic ability, leadership, the field of study, etc..
You won’t have to repay either of them. You can apply for scholarships and grants online or look at local businesses and community organizations.
What are My Other Options to Pay for College?
Here are some options you can look into after you’ve looked into the options above:
Private Loan Options
If federal student aid isn’t something you can pursue, you can look to private loan options. Financial institutions like banks, credit unions, and private lenders may all offer student loans.
However, private student loans are not the only option; you can even use personal loans, title loans and credit cards to pay for tuition or any other school-related expense. Just keep in mind that sometimes these options can lead to a cycle of debt, especially if you don’t get good interest rates and manageable repayment terms.
Take Up a Part-Time or Full-Time Job and Consider Employer Benefits
Taking up a part-time or full-time job to pay for school is a practical approach, and many students choose this route to finance their education. There are all kinds of full-time and part-time job options that may fit into a school schedule. You can even consider a remote job or online school to get the most flexibility.
If you are already employed, you should know that many companies offer tuition reimbursement or assistance programs as a part of their benefits package. This can significantly reduce the cost of college. Talk to your HR department for details.
Ask to Borrow from Family
Another option to consider is asking your family members. Many parents, grandparents, and even extended family may offer a gift or a loan for educational expenses to their loved ones. Although this may be awkward in some scenarios, you may be surprised how quickly it may solve your financial dilemma.
College is an important and helpful investment, but it is expensive. However, with proper planning and the use of several available resources, it’s possible to pay for all your educational needs.