Financing a college education

The average cost of tuition and fees at a public, four-year college is expected to increase 5 percent per year, on average, according to the College Board.1 So it’s not surprising that many parents are wondering how they’re going to afford their children’s higher education — even if they’ve been taking advantage of college savings plans. 

The good news? Many forms of financial aid are available to supplement those savings — from grants and scholarships to federal and private education loans. It’s never too early to start exploring and comparing your options.  


No-cost financial aid  

  • Grants are awarded to students showing financial need and don’t need to be repaid.  Grants can come from the federal government, your state government, your college, or a private or nonprofit organization.
     
    • Learn more about grants, eligibility, and deadlines.  
       
  • Scholarships can be based on multiple criteria — from academics and athletics to essays and community involvement. Some scholarships include stipulations, such as maintaining a certain grade point average or a particular area of study. School counselors and community organizations can be a good source of information. 
     
    •  Learn more about searching and applying for scholarships. 


Loan options  
Loans are another option to consider when financing a college education. Each loan type has its advantages, so it’s important to review them carefully to determine the best choice for your family.

  • Home equity loans or lines of credit can provide a convenient financial resource to help with college expenses. Plus, lower interest rates and potential tax advantages make tapping your available equity a financially smart option.  
     
  • The U.S. Department of Education provides federal loans for parents and students, including Perkins, Direct Stafford, and Direct Plus loans.   


Work-study 
Work-study programs help students find part-time work on or off campus while they’re enrolled in school. Students earn at least minimum wage and can use their earnings toward education expenses.  

Keep in mind that students and parents must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) to apply for federal financial aid, including grants, work-study, and federal loans. 


Tips to lower costs
There are a variety of ways to lower the cost of higher education:

  • Take college courses or AP classes while in high school to earn college credit
  • Attend a community college or in-state school for lower tuition rates
  • Look at no-loan schools 
  • Purchase used textbooks, or rent them for the semester
  • Take advantage of student discount programs from your college or local community

        
More college financing resources
Reviewing your college financing options now can help you find the best financial fit for your needs — as well as alleviate stress — when your child is ready to take the next step in their education. 
 

Use our college savings calculator to compute the amount you need to save each month to pay for college tuition.

1 “Trends in Higher Education,” College Board, https://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/2016-17-state-tuition-and-fees-public-four-year-institutions-state-and-five-year-percentage, accessed June 9, 2017

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