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How to Pay for College Tuition: The Top Tips to Know

In 2017, 67% of students that graduated from high school enrolled in college the following fall. Not only are most recent high school graduates heading off to college, but also, more and more older adults are getting secondary degrees.

If it’s time for you to start thinking about going to college, you’re probably wondering how to pay for college tuition.

Let’s take a look at some tips about paying for college.

Consider a Less-Expensive School

It’s no secret that college is expensive. In fact, the cost of tuition has increased by more than 25% in the last 10 years.

Not all colleges cost the same amount, with public schools tending to be less expensive than private schools. Community colleges are the least expensive of all options.

You can also set your sights on schools that give out lots of aid. You don’t necessarily need to go to a cheap school; you just want to find the cheapest option for you.

One smart hack for not racking up impossible amounts of student debt is starting your college education at a community college. After a few years, you can transfer to a four-year college to finish your degree. You’ll receive the same degree as everyone else in your graduating class, but you’ll have paid significantly less.

If you know exactly what your career path is, you might also opt to go to trade school instead of college. If you’re already decided on doing something that only requires shorter-term degrees or certificates, there’s no need to waste your money on college.

Fill Out the FAFSA

The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Even if you don’t expect to qualify, you should fill it out. When you submit the FAFSA, you’re putting yourself in the running to receive various forms of financial aid such as work-study opportunities, federal grants, student loans, and some school and state-based aid.

Filling out the FAFSA is the first thing you should do when you’re trying to get financial aid and grants for college. Some colleges give out scholarships on a first-come, first-served basis, so you want to be first in line. Some schools require you to complete the CSS profile in addition to the FAFSA in order to be considered for aid.

Hunt for Scholarships

Scholarships are one of the most ideal ways to pay for college because unlike student loans, they don’t have to be paid back.

There are thousands of scholarships available out there, and it doesn’t hurt to start your search early. Looking into scholarship opportunities several years before you plan on going to school to get a sense of what you might be able to qualify for.

See If You Qualify for Grants

There are several different types of grants offered by the federal government, including Pell Grants. If you don’t submit the FAFSA and renew it every year you’re in school, you might be leaving money on the table.

There are also grant programs at the state level. This map can help you find state grant programs you might qualify for.

Get a Work-Study Job

To apply for work-study, you simply have to submit the FAFSA. “Work-study” will be listed on your financial aid award if you qualify. After qualifying, you’ll have to find an eligible work-study job on your campus and work the required hours.

Work-study can help provide income, potentially valuable connections, and work experience.

Save Ahead of Time

It is common for families to use a 529 plan to pay for school. While you can, of course, use a regular savings account or taxable investment account, 529s can help you gain a tax benefit.

While 529s are used by many families, it’s important to realize that they rely heavily on stock market returns. So it’s very important to have backup savings if the market turns down before college begins.

You should also know that withdrawing from 529s during your freshman or sophomore year can affect how much you receive in financial aid awards. It’s worth doing the math and figuring out if using other funding for your first two years makes better financial sense.

Take Out Federal Loans

It’s important to know that you don’t have to accept all of the aid that you’re offered, particularly student loans. The general advice is that your student loan payments shouldn’t exceed 10% of your projected after-tax monthly income for your first year after school.

The Last Resort: Private Loans

If you’re going to take out private loans, you’ll want to shop around for a lender. You’ll want to find a lender that offers the most generous borrower protections and the lowest interest rate. Some lenders will offer flexible repayment plans or the choice to put your loans in forbearance if necessary.

Any loans other than federally subsidized loans will accrue interest while you’re in school. This means that you’ll be responsible for paying back more than the amount you borrowed originally.

How to Pay for College Tuition: Plan Ahead

If you plan on going to college, it’s good to look into how to pay for college tuition ahead of time. There are so many different ways to pay for college, and getting an education doesn’t have to cripple you with loans.

When considering your options, you’ll want to be realistic about your projected income for your field of study. It can be reasonable to take out more loans if you anticipate entering a high-paying line of work. On the other hand, if you aren’t sure about your career path or are planning on a lower-paying line of work, you’ll want to keep your school costs as low as possible.

Did you find this article about how to pay for college useful? If so, be sure to check out the rest of our blog for more informative articles!