In the modern economy, a quality college education is more vital than ever, but the cost of college tuition continues to soar. Many of today’s college graduates leave college with tens of thousands of dollars of debt. However, if you plan early and make smart choices, you can avoid the burden of hefty student loans.
Choose Your College Wisely
Your choice of school has a major impact on the cost of your schooling. A year’s tuition at an elite university, such as Harvard or MIT, can cost you and your family more than $35,000. Once you factor in fees, textbooks and other expenses, the final annual cost of some universities can exceed $50,000.
However, it’s possible to save money by choosing an affordable university. Although private schools are almost invariably expensive, many public universities are affordable for in-state students. Nationally, the average tuition cost for in-state students at public universities hovers around $4,500. By attending a community college, you can save even more money; the average tuition cost for community colleges is only $2,000.
Pursue Alternative Schools
Before the growth of the Internet, brick-and-mortar universities possessed a monopoly on higher education. However, the Internet has allowed alternative educational models, such as online universities, to grow and thrive. These types of schools are much more affordable than traditional universities. Online schools don’t have to pay for grounds, housing, facilities and the other expensive trappings of universities.
Finding Affordable Schools
If you’re trying to find an affordable school, don’t delay in starting your search. Elite universities are household names, but it may be more difficult to find an affordable university that still meets your qualifications. If you’re still attending school, ask your counselors for help; they may know of several affordable colleges that would be a good match for you. Spend some time each night searching for schools online. Many independent websites rate universities using several different factors, including cost.
Different Types of Financial Aid
Even if you have found an affordable university, you still need to pay for your schooling. If you don’t have a large trust fund set aside for you, you can pay for college through a combination of scholarships, grants and loans. There are thousands of different scholarships, if not more, and many of them are tailored to students in specific situations. Search through online databases to find scholarships; in addition, your prospective school will likely offer several scholarships that you may qualify for.
Grants, like scholarships, do not need to be repaid. Unlike scholarships, however, grants are largely based on financial need. Competition for grants can be very fierce, so apply early and often for as many grants as you can. Most grants come from the federal government, and you can find out if you’re eligible for a grant by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.
You can take out loans to cover your tuition and living expenses, but every dollar you borrow will eventually need to be repaid with interest. While at school, you’ll likely only need to make nominal payments on your loans. However, you’ll have to begin making regular payments within a year of your graduation. You can find government-backed loans by filling out the FAFSA, and you can also find student loans through many private banks.