In this blog post, I will cover a variety of responses to the how to pay for college question. Keep in mind, they are by no means the sum total of all possible answers.
Anybody in any situation may have a route available to them that makes more sense than one of the suggestions below.
And keep in mind it’s not a matter of picking one option and abandoning all others. It’s probably a good idea to make use of as many as you can.
For example, why take out student loans to cover your entire post-secondary education—and then spend the next 2 to 3 decades trying to pay it back—when a large part of those necessary funds could come from grants or scholarships that don’t need to be repaid?
So read on. You may even be lucky enough to figure out how to go to college for free!
|How to Pay for College? Mix & Match Any That Apply to You|
|Take out a student loan|
|Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)|
|Consider Going to a Community College First|
|Consider a More Affordable School|
|Apply for Scholarships|
|Apply for Grants|
|Join the Military|
How to Pay for College:
› 1. Take Out a Student Loan
Since taking out a student loan really is an answer to how to pay for college, I will address it and get it out of the way.
But know this. It isn’t the best or most sensible way to pay for or get help with your college tuition. In fact, it’s likely the least sensible way.
At first, a loan may seem to be the answer to your prayers. You apply, and if you’re approved, presto. You have the money you need.
But hang on there. Let’s consider some statistics.
First, yes. It is said that having a college degree increases your earning potential by about 50%, at least according to figures published by the Economic Policy Institute.
- College grads earn about 50% more than someone who only has a high school diploma
That sounds awesome, doesn’t it? Go to college and make more money when you’re done.
So clearly, at least from a monetary point of view, it makes sense to go to college. And if you took out a loan to do so, you’ll be making the extra bucks that will make your loan repayment easy. Am I right?
But how about these statistics?
According to this report by the Strada Institute for the Future of Work and Burning Glass Technologies, 40% of college graduates start off in a job that doesn’t require their degree, meaning they aren’t making the money they assumed they would.
- 40% of new college graduates find jobs that pay less than what they expected to earn
And this isn’t just a passing phase for some graduates. The study also finds that 1 in 5 colleges graduates still aren’t working in a job that demands a degree a decade after they finished school.
- A decade after graduating from college, 1 in 5 graduates are still working in an underpaying job
And as these statistics show, while having a degree certainly does improve your chances of being employed at all, there is still no guarantee you will find employment with a degree.
- Some graduates remain unemployed, never finding a job at all
The lesson here? Yes, taking out a student loan can be an answer to how to pay for college, but it should never be your first answer. (Let’s forget the fact that it was my first answer here. It shouldn’t be your first answer.)
Now, how about moving on to some more sensible solutions on how to afford college.
› 2. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
Depending on where you live, you may have no choice here. Some states have made filling out the application a high school graduation requirement.
- Louisiana (already enforced)
- Illinois (enforcement begins in 2020)
- Texas (enforcement begins in 2021)
- Michigan (enforcement under consideration)
- Indiana (enforcement under consideration)
- California (enforcement under consideration)
- District of Columbia (enforcement under consideration)
According to a 2018 annual report, The Department of Education helps nearly 13 million students complete their schooling by awarding approximately $122.5 billion in:
- Federal grants
- Student loans
- Work-study funds
Filling out the FAFSA makes you eligible to share in these scholarships, grants, loans, and funds.
And since some colleges work on a first-come, first-served basis when it comes to awarding money, you should get to this as soon as you can.
› 3. Consider Going to a Community College First
I’m sure some will scoff at this, but if you’re concerned about how to afford college, it’s something you should give some thought to.
Instead of enrolling in a four-year college off the bat, you can take some of your first and second-year credits at a community college at a significantly reduced cost. From there, take your earned credits and transfer to a school that offers your bachelor’s degree of choice.
And yes, I know you’re asking how to pay for college, and it might seem that this isn’t an answer. But paying less for college will certainly make it easier to pay for college, right?
- Years one and two: earn your credits at a community college for much cheaper
- Years three and four: transfer to a graduate school to get your degree
› 4. Consider a More Affordable School
Some may be willing to break the law to get into a school of choice, but is it really necessary for you to get your education at one of the more expensive schools in the country?
If you don’t have that kind of money to throw around, take a step back and be reasonable. Paying back huge student loans just because you had to go to a school with name recognition will haunt you for a long time.
Paying off student loans can be hard enough with increasing the amount you need to pay back.
Take a look at this chart provided by CollegeBoard.org.
› 5. Apply for Scholarships
Whether or not you have your mindset on one of those big-name schools, apply for scholarships. It could be a medical school scholarship or anything else. Just apply for as many as you can.
To help, there are a number of online tools to find grad school scholarships, so be sure to put them to good use.
Parents should also check with their employers to see if they offer scholarships for children of employees. Parents looking to change employment might consider such a company ahead of others.
Check locally to see if there are any community groups or businesses that offer scholarships.
Wondering how to go to college for free? This might be the answer.
- Use online search tools to find scholarships
- Check with employers
- Find out if there are any local businesses or community groups offering scholarships.
› 6. Apply for Grants
Assuming you filled out the FAFSA mentioned above, you can seek the assistance of grants that are awarded by schools, a variety of organizations, and several federal assistance programs. Wherever the award comes from, the amount is based on your own financial needs.
Thanks to the FAFSA, you’ll be notified of whatever grants you might be in line for.
The other course of action to take is to check with your state grant agency to see what grants might be available to you.
- A completed FAFSA puts you in line for different assistance grants
- Check with your state grant agency for any other available grants
Again, if you’re wondering how to go to college for free, this might be helpful as well.
› 7. Join the Military
The Armed Forces tuition assistance program benefits both enlisted and officer military members. Either can receive an annual allotment of up to $4,500 for tuition and fees.
Note that depending on the branch you join, there are differing criteria.
Another option if the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Any member of the military who has seen at least 90 days of active duty since September 11, 2001 is eligible for this program.
Depending on the length of service, the program offers to pay for 40 to 100% of in-state college or university tuitions. There is also a provision to cover up to a maximum of $17,500 of attending a private or foreign school.
- Enlisted personnel and officers are eligible for up to $4,500 for tuition and fees
- The Post-9/11 GI Bill will pay for 40 to 100% of your tuition depend on a variety of criteria
How to Pay for College
As you can see, there are many ways to pay for college, and we haven’t come close to listing them all.
Take some time researching available help with college tuition methods. You’ll eventually figure out the best way to finance college.
Ready to Refinance Your Student Loans?
Here are a few of the best options:
|LENDER||VARIABLE APR||ELIGIBLE DEGREES|
|1.99% - 6.89%||Undergrad &|
|1.93% – 6.68%||Undergrad &|
|2.31% - 6.89%||Undergrad &|
|1.90% – 8.59%||Undergrad &|