The costs of living increase every year due to inflation, and tuition costs routinely go up even faster. Of course, your parents could have used the power of interest to your advantage in establishing an early savings plan. A few thousand invested in a tax-deferred savings plan in the 1990s would likely cover your total tuition costs today with money left over for books and Internet access.
Whether your parents have left you in the cold on tuition or some other circumstances lead you to going it alone, there are many funding streams available for higher education expenses. Some are definitely more desirable than others, but any option is better than none considering the effect of a diploma on lifetime earnings. With a wise choice of major and funding, anyone can access college for a much lower cost than the sticker price.
Private Versus Public
High achievers and students looking for specialized experiences should consider applying to private schools. Private schools are more expensive, but they often offer diplomas with the most prestige. The admissions process is the toughest part, since these schools tend to offer full and partial scholarships for students demonstrating financial need.
For students set on attending public college, there are several low- and no-cost funding streams. It still pays to shop around for the highest rated school offering your preferred major(s). However, you’ll have very similar access to money with any public choice.
The first step to accessing the many funding sources is filling out the annual Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This lets the university know your status and provides the potential for Pell grants, work study, and subsidized loans. It is also an eligibility requirement for most scholarships offered through the university and state educational funding.
Avenues for Investigation
You are obviously on the right track by investigating options online. Some college financial aid offices will incorporate state programs you are eligible for in the aid package, but this is not a sure thing. A good source to check is your state’s Department of Education. General searches may turn up useful information as well.
College scholarships are usually all administered by one office. You need to find that office and fill out their application. Administrators feed this data into the database to look for matches. They can miss scholarships, so you need to also look through the list available in the handbook.
Many private scholarships are available through employers, religious and civic organizations, and foundations. Several websites do nothing but compile lists of private scholarships, so spend a day making profiles.
If you do need to rely on loans, there are ways to minimize their impact on your future finances. One is to pay interest through the college years. Another is to access federal and state programs for loan forgiveness by choosing a public service major, such as education.
Students without the cash on hand should not feel discouraged from achieving the benefits of higher education. Take advantage of every funding option. Your future income and ability to fund education for your own children depends on it.
Emily Dyer writes for higher education blogs nationwide. She recommends www.christiandegreeprograms.org as a great resource for students interested in finding degree programs for Christian leadership.