College degrees translate to higher salaries, but based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, only 33 percent of adults held a bachelor’s degree as of 2015.
The obvious answer as to why so many people have stopped short of earning a four-year degree is cost. College, and everything that comes with it, is expensive.
According to data from the College Board, the average school year at an in-state public college costs $24,610, including tuition, fees, textbooks, housing and food. The cost at a private college was $49,320. These numbers can fluctuate significantly based on the university and its location.
Additionally, these figures do not account for other common expenses, such as:
- Extracurricular activities.
These costs add up fast, and not everyone is able to rely on loved ones to assist with financing. Fortunately, there are numerous ways to figure out how to pay for college.
Your first step should be determining whether or not you’re eligible for need-based aid, and if so, how much.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the largest provider of student financial aid in the U.S., providing more than $150 billion in federal grants, loans and work-study funds.
You can receive grants from many sources, including both the federal and state government. Common opportunities include:
- Pell Grants.
- SMART Grants.
- TEACH Grants.
- Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants.
- Academic Competitiveness Grants.
- Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants.
In addition to filling out your FAFSA, research grant opportunities related to your school, degree and intended career.
The list of college scholarships you may be eligible for is seemingly endless, with money offered for everything from academic prowess and regional residency to the degrees and extracurricular activities you wish to pursue.
Both government-sponsored and private loans can assist with college costs.
Federal options include:
- Direct subsidized loans and direct unsubsidized loans.
- Direct PLUS loans.
- Federal Perkins loans.
Federally funded loans typically offer borrower-friendly terms, such as fixed interest rates, income-driven repayment plans and deferred payment while you remain in school. However, federal loans may not cover all costs, necessitating the use of private student loans.
Other financing options exist as well. One example is participating in programs like the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, which assists students who plan to serve in the military following college with tuition and other expenses. Meanwhile, work-study programs allow students to perform duties at or near campuses in order to pay for college expenses.
The Internal Revenue Service also offers numerous tax credits and deductions to help make paying for college more affordable.