How to Pay for College

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How to Pay for College

How to Pay for College

When thinking about the price of college, parents often fixate on college tuition costs. But many families forget that the total price tag can include additional expenses such as Room & Board, School Fees, Textbooks & School Supplies, Travel Costs, and Personal Expenses. Families can break the list down further by organizing expenses into both direct costs and indirect costs:

  • Direct Costs: Refers to “Billable Costs” that the University bills directly to students (e.g., tuition).
  • Indirect Costs: Costs that a student will have while at college but that will not be paid directly to the institution (e.g., books, travel, personal expenses, etc.)

As the cost of a degree continues to rise, the price has become a bigger consideration among students and parents. So, how can students possibly afford to attend college and advance their education?

What are the Ways to Pay for College?

When it comes to paying for college, students and parents want and need options. Luckily, there are several types of funding available to help students pay for a college education.

Grants and Scholarships

Sometimes referred to as “gift aid” or “free money,” scholarships and grants are among the ways to pay for college without loans because they’re funds families never have to pay back. These funds can be awarded based either on need or merit by the federal government, state, college, or private organizations. In most cases, private foundations, nonprofits, for-profit corporations, and philanthropists fund private loans.

A scholarship might cover the entire cost of tuition, or it might be a one-time award of a few hundred dollars. Either way, a scholarship will reduce the cost of education. Keep in mind that private colleges offer more merit scholarships than public universities because they have larger endowments.


By filing for financial aid, students then become eligible for student loans. These loans have interest fees and can originate from the government, the university, or private lenders. A loan’s terms will vary depending upon the type. The maximum amount that a student is permitted to borrow in federal funds is currently $5,500 per year. There are two types of federally funded loans available to students:

  • Subsidized Loans: These are need-based loans that the student does not need to begin to repay until six months after graduation. The federal government pays the interest on the loan until that time.
  • Unsubsidized Loans: These loans are available to any student regardless of their level of need. The government doesn’t pay the interest while the student is in school, but the student does have the option of deferring the interest payments until graduation.


Whether working as a tour guide, a library assistant, or a tutor at the academic support center, students can reduce college costs in exchange for on-campus work. After completing a FAFSA form, the university will notify students about their eligibility for work-study in a financial aid award letter. Once receiving the letter, students will then need to apply for a specific job on campus. Most schools will have online job listings on student web portals.

Complete the FAFSA Application

Any student wishing to attend college must fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to open the doorway to financial aid. Schools use this FAFSA form to determine the amount of money they can offer to a student, as well as the types of funding a student may receive.

Students must complete a new FAFSA form for each school year. Once completed, students will receive an EFC (Expected Family Contribution), which estimates how much a family can afford to pay for college. Colleges will then look at those numbers and send an award letter detailing a student’s financial aid package.

Helping Students Pay for College

Paying for college can seem overwhelming. But at the end of the day, a student’s #1 priority should be finding an affordable college. One of the best ways of cutting college costs is to enroll at a less expensive college. If the student is transferring to a large university, this could net a savings of several thousand dollars.  Students can eliminate tuition costs before even applying to college by completing a college class or two during high school. In doing so, students can potentially cut one semester’s worth of general education requirements if they score high enough on four Advanced Placement exams.

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