If you are concerned about how to finance the cost of college, you are certainly not alone. Financing a higher education is a common worry for many students and their families. Fortunately, this guide from University of Phoenix includes steps you can take to determine the best way for you to finance a college education.
There is no singular or correct way to pay for college since every student’s financial situation is different. However, reviewing these steps can provide you with direction to create a solution that works for you.
Step 1: Look at the Numbers
You’ll need to take some time to get a clear sense of the impact of your personal finances before starting the college application process. Using an online general financial planning tool or one designed specifically for saving for college will give you a better idea of where you stand.
Many colleges and universities will work with you virtually or in person with guidance to plan financially for college. For example, at University of Phoenix, prospective students can use an online calculator to get an estimate of how much it will cost to attend their chosen degree program.
Don’t be scared off by the numbers. Remember that a college education is an investment in your future. Earning a degree can help improve your earning prospects, not just in the short term but also over the course of your career.
These calculations can help you understand what you can afford out of pocket and how those costs can be addressed by taking out educational loans or applying for grants and scholarships.
Step 2: Find the Right College that Meets Your Financial Situation
There are seemingly hundreds of decisions to make what it comes to selecting the right college for you. Do you want to attend a community college or a four-year university? Do you want to go to a college that is in your state or go further afield? Are you looking for an in-person education or the convenience and ease of an online university?
Answering these questions is important. It will also help you narrow down the choices as well as where to look for information about how to pay for college. One key consideration is the cost difference between attending a traditional college or a top on....
Online colleges can be less expensive than an in-person college experience when it comes down to non-tuition costs. When you attend an in-person university, you can wind up paying for a combination of room and board, furnishing and supplies, transportation and parking. There’s also the cost of physical textbooks. Online coursework eliminates the need for nearly all of these expenses, allowing you to study from anywhere. In many cases, digital textbooks are also available and can be cheaper than traditional printed and bound textbooks.
Step 3: Complete the FAFSA
The FAFSA is an important step in the college financing process. It stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid and is crucial when trying to identify funds to pay for college. The FAFSA is another tool for estimating the cost of college. It will also generate emails if there are federal grant or loan programs for which you qualify.
If you are looking at federal student aid programs, whether grants or loans from your state or your school of choice, a completed FAFSA is necessary. While the federal deadline is June 30, states, colleges and universities have their own deadlines. Keeping track of these deadlines and what information is necessary for filling out the FAFSA is important.
Pay attention to the FAFSA instructions, which detail what is necessary for information about your own finances as well as your family’s finances. Making sure your FAFSA is accurate can be the difference between getting financial aid or not.
Step 4: Seeking Available Scholarships, Grants and Loans
Grants, scholarships and loans are all excellent ways to finance a college education. Let’s look at each category.
Grants are ways to finance an education and, most importantly, do not need to be repaid. At the federal level, Pell grants are the most common. Undergraduate students with a demonstrable financial need are automatically eligible.
In addition, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants are available to undergraduates with “exceptional financial need” pursuing their first bachelor’s degree. Each grant program has its own eligibility requirements that need to be considered before applying.
Scholarships are another way to get funds for college. Scholarships usually do not need to be repaid and are based on various factors including need, merit or skills. Some scholarships are given for community involvement, in alignment with identity characteristics or issued by employers.
There are many tools online to search for scholarships that might be right for you. Make sure to inquire about scholarships offered by schools of interest. For example, University of Phoenix awards up to $1 million in scholarships opportunities each month.
Loans are a common way for students to finance a college education, but they require repayment. If loans are necessary, be sure to look for federal and private loan programs that usually carry lower interest rates than personal loans.
Direct subsidized loans do not accrue interest while you are attending school. In contrast, direct unsubsidized loans start accruing interest as soon as the funds are disbursed.
Step 5: Explore Other Options for Reducing Costs
There are many other resources available for students when it comes to offsetting the costs of a higher education. No student should shoulder the cost of college on their own. For example, many employers offer support for employees seeking to improve their education. It’s a good way to retain employees and help them learn new skills, so be sure to check with your own company.
Another option is to take a Prior Learning Assessment (PLA). This tool is used at some institutions, including University of Phoenix, to have life and work experiences evaluated for potential credit toward a degree program. This assessment can lead to fewer course requirements, and costs, to earn a degree.
Finally, alternative credits can be used through online skills programs or even standardized testing services. There are many ways to finance your college dreams. Taking these steps can lead to new solutions for you and your family.
About University of Phoenix
Founded in 1976, University of Phoenix offers adult learners flexible ways to complete a degree program. The University supports students through an online learning platform where learners can pursue multiple degrees and certificates.