Paying for college can be one of the toughest parts of earning your degree. Use our answers, articles and tools to stay up to date on the best ways to pay for college, including scholarships, savings, grants, loans, and more. Parents should expect to pay a portion of their children’s college cost through savings, income and loans. Additionally, aid from federal/state government, colleges and private scholarships.
A big component of paying your child’s college tuition is the amount your parent’s have saved. These can include the following:
• 529 Plans that include 529 College Savings Plans and 529 Prepaid Tuition Plans.
• US Treasury Savings Bonds
• Coverdell Education Savings Accounts (ESA)
• UGMA/UTMA Custodial Accounts
Student loans can be a overwhelming process but the first step is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is used to determine your eligibility for need-based or non-need based financial aid such as loans or grants.
• Subsidized Stafford Loan
• Perkins Loan
• Unsubsidized Stafford Loan
• Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS)
Private Student Loans
Consider a private student loan only after you’ve filed FAFSA and exhausted all other avenues such as federal or state loans, scholarships and grants.
Grants and Scholarships
Grants and scholarships are usually called “gift aid” because it’s free money. Grants and scholarships can come from the federal government, your state government, your college or career school, or a private or nonprofit organization. There are various scholarships available that range from merit-based, need-based, community service, athletic, etc. Watch out for scholarship scams that charge fees and require advance loan payments.
• Federal Pell Grants
• Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG)
• Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants
• Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants
Search for Scholarships
In the 2011-12 school year, more than $6.2 billion in private scholarships was awarded to more than 1.8 million undergraduate students with all manner of academic and athletic achievements.
+ Fastweb – Search a database of more than 1.5 million scholarships.
+ NerdWallet – Search scholarships from over 10,000 financial aid programs.
+ CareerOneStop – Search scholarships through the website that is sponsored by the US Department of Labor.
+ US Department of Education | State Grant Search – Provides information on grants, scholarships, and other financial aid for college students from the state, including federally-supported state programs.
+ Zinch – A college portal website that allows students to create profiles and connect with other students and learn more about colleges and search for scholarships.
+StudentScholarshipSearch – Provided by Edvisors network to help students search, investigate and apply for scholarships.
+ Call your credit union and inquire about college scholarships. Many credit unions offer scholarships to members or children of members.
A federal student aid program that provides part-time employment while you are enrolled in school to help pay your education expenses. Read more about Federal Work-Study on StudentAid.Ed.gov
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How do I apply for Federal Student Aid?
To apply for federal student aid, and for most state and institutional aid, you must complete the FAFSA, either online at www.fafsa.gov or on paper. You do not have to pay to apply for federal student aid. Contact your institution’s education coordinator or the financial aid administrator at the school you plan to attend for more information. It is important to note that even if you are not eligible for federal student aid, you may still be eligible for aid from your state or school.
2. How can I apply for financial aid?
To apply for federal student aid, you need to complete the FAFSA or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Completing and submitting the FAFSA is free and quick, and it gives you access to the largest source of financial aid to pay for college or career school. In addition, many states and colleges use your FAFSA data to determine your eligibility for state and school aid, and some private financial aid providers may use your FAFSA information to determine whether you qualify for their aid.
3. Should I choose federal student loans or private student loans?
If you must take out student loans, federal student loans are the best option for the vast majority of borrowers. It is best to max out your federal student loan options before you borrow any private student loans. Federal student loans usually carry more flexible protection if you run into difficulty in repaying your loans, and all new federal student loans have fixed interest rates, meaning the rate does not change over the life of your loan. Private student loans generally have variable interest rates, which can reset every month or quarter, causing your monthly payments to change.
4. Does the military pay for college education?
Military service can make your education goals a reality. TheArmed Forces tuition assistance is a powerful incentive for those serving in the armed forces to pursue their education. Both enlisted and officer military members can receive up to $4,500 annually for tuition and fees.
Eligibility, service requirements, application processes and restrictions differ among the military branches, National Guard and Reserves.
5. What types of financial aid is available to pay for college?
Financial aid is money to help pay for college or career school. Aid can come from
• the U.S. federal government,
• the state where you live,
• the college you attend, or
• a nonprofit or private organization.
Aid and Other Resources From the Federal Government
The federal government offers a number of financial aid programs. Besides aid from the U.S. Department of Education (discussed below), you also might get
• aid for serving in the military or for being the spouse or child of a veteran,
• tax benefits for education,
• an Education Award for community service with AmeriCorps,
• Educational and Training Vouchers for current and former foster care youth, and/or
• scholarships and loan repayment through the Department of Health and Human Services’ Indian Health Service, National Institutes of Health, and National Health Service Corps.
+ 3 Steps to Getting Financial Aid. The College Board
+ Grants, work-study, and low-interest loans help make college affordable. www.StudentAid.Ed.gov
+ Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) is the first step toward getting federal aid. www.StudentAid.Ed.gov
+ Avoid 4 Common Financial Aid Myths. US News
+ 12 Insider Tricks To Pay For College. Forbes
Calculators | Compare College Financial Aid
FAFSA – http://FAFSA.ed.gov
Information and application for the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid.
Student Loans – www.StudentLoans.gov
Access to information on all topics of student loan financing and preparing for college.
Student Resources – http://StudentAid.ed.gov
Resources and tools to learn more about the federal student aid process and loan programs.
+ BigFuture | College Board – Information to find colleges, financing, explore careers and everything else in between.
+ FinAid.org – Learn about the college financial aid process, discover resources and apply for grants and scholarships.
+ Paying for College – US News resource center on paying for college.
+ Fastweb.com – A site that matches the information you enter in your profile to scholarship, college, job and internship opportunities.
+ Ed.gov/Blog – The official blog of US Department of Education.