Paying for college may seem like an insurmountable task with the ever-increasing costs of higher education. However, there are many avenues students and their families can take in tackling those costs. Here are a few of those approaches you can use for how you can pay for college:
Approach #1: Apply for scholarships from both the institution the student plans to attend as well as from sources outside the institution. The search is no longer confined to the student’s junior or senior year in high school. It can sometimes begin as early as the start of high school and should last as long as the student is attending college. There are many reputable scholarship searches available to students. It is important to look for free search engines such as Fastweb.com. Never pay for scholarship searches.
Approach #2: Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to be considered for Federal, State and Institutional need-based grant programs. The FAFSA is also required for any federal loan programs and most college work-study programs. Make sure you meet applicable filing deadlines.
Approach #3: Students should strongly consider participating in student employment programs offered by their college. Earnings from employment can be used to lower the bill owed to the college or lessen reliance on borrowing. Work programs also provide valuable experience that can be added to a student’s resume.
Approach #4: Summer is also a great time to earn money for college expenses while gaining valuable work experience. Depending on the student’s place of employment during the summer, it may also be possible for the student to continue that job into the school year.
Approach #5: It is never too late to start saving, but sooner is better when it comes to college. Setting up and contributing to a 529 College Savings Plan is a great way to save money for college while taking advantage of potential tax savings.
Approach #6: Most schools offer some type of payment plan to pay the balance due on tuition and fees over the course of the academic year. This will allow the student flexibility in spreading payments over several months without having to take out a longer term loan. Be sure to find out what the costs are associated with participation in a monthly payment plan as that needs to be factored into the decision-making process.
Approach #7: Student and/or parent loans are often needed to help pay for college at some point. If borrowing is necessary, students should utilize their federal loan eligibility first as federal loans generally have better terms than private student loans. If loans are needed beyond a student’s federal eligibility, then a family needs to decide if additional loan funding will be in the student’s or parent’s name