The price of college is really high. The cost of tuition and fees for 2021–2022 at rated four-year institutions ranged from around $10,300 for in-state public schools to about $38,200 for private universities, according to statistics from U.S. News.
Families concerned about how they will pay for college should start by filling out the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, according to experts. You can apply for grants, loans, and scholarships, among other types of financial aid, by doing this.
Most college admissions advisors suggest submitting an application as soon as it becomes available.
According to Jack Shinn, owner of J Shinn & Associates, a financial education specialist based in New Jersey, “the sooner a student applies after October 1st, the more likely it is that the colleges will have more funding available.”
Experts recommend federal student loans to students who need to borrow money for schooling instead of private loans, which usually carry higher interest rates.
Here are some other possibilities to lessen the cost of attending college that you might not have thought of yet:
529 plan for savings towards education
requests for financial assistance for regional prizes
schools without loans
Advanced Placement and dual enrollment credits
Prior assessments of ROTC education programs
Initiatives for regional tuition swaps
The 529 Plan for Education Savings
According to Sallie Mae’s How America Pays For school 2021, parent income and savings covered approximately half of the total cost of school, or $11,800 on average.
College 529 savings plans were used to cover a higher percentage of the cost of education than other savings options such as retirement accounts and noncollege savings accounts. Families can increase their savings with these plans without paying taxes as long as the money is used for approved educational costs.
“A little more than a third of parents (37%) used a college savings account, like a 529, to help pay for college last year which is consistent with our data from 2019–20,” reads an email from Sallie Mae spokesperson Rick Castellano. “Even though this percentage is staying constant, nearly two-thirds of families are not making use of these tax-advantaged accounts.”
Colleges and universities offer institutional scholarships, but students can further lower their tuition costs by applying for local scholarships, which are typically offered by organizations that support the community, companies, or places of worship.
Even while they don’t always result in sizable award sums, local scholarships are typically significantly less competitive than national scholarships.
Furthermore, a number of companies give scholarships to the dependents of their employees.
Appeals for Financial Aid
The FAFSA calculates a family’s financial need based on “prior prior year” data. For instance, federal tax returns from 2020 are used in the 2022–2023 FAFSA. However, families can ask a college for a financial aid appeal, also known as a professional judgment, if they have recently experienced a change in their financial circumstances, such as a job loss, pay reduction, or excessive costs for dependent care.
“In light of extenuating circumstances and evolving economic conditions, colleges must adapt,” emailed Bob Collins, vice president of financial assistance at Western Governors University in Utah. “College financial aid departments nationwide responded to an increase in professional infections after the coronavirus pandemic upended the personal finances of countless students and families.”
Schools with No Loans
Some colleges, like Amherst College in Massachusetts or Stanford University in California, work to meet every student’s completely documented need without requiring loans. This implies that there are options for financial aid in the form of grants, scholarships, and work-study. Certain financial aid programs are restricted to students from families with lower or moderate incomes.
“Instead of applying to schools that offer competitive financial aid packages, many students focus too much on outside scholarships,” says Nat Smitobol, a master college admissions consultant with the New York-based education consulting business Ivywise.