College Costs; Tuition, Fees, Room, and Board
Costs of College
Paying for college is almost as challenging as the coursework most students will face. The average student will pay between $4,000 a year for community college and over $40,000 a year for a private university. On top of these tuition costs, students who do not live at home will pay room and board. Book costs, lab fees, computer fees and other costs all add to these expenses as well. This is a tremendous amount of money, particularly when students rarely have full time positions. The sheer cost of attending school for one year can keep some students from pursuing their degrees, and may prevent others from finishing once they start. This does not have to be the case, because financial help is available for most students.
Financial Aid and Student Loan Options for Covering your Costs
Those students who are serious about attending school will find options to help them. Financial aid comes in many forms, and all can be used to help pay for school. Many options come through the government in the form of government sponsored loans and grants. Loans have to be repaid, while grants are free money for school to those who qualify. Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step in applying for government financial aid. Grants may also be available from privately funded sources, while banks and other lenders also offer loans, but the FAFSA is typically the first step in applying for most financial aid.
Search for Scholarships and other Free Money
Scholarships are a second option to help pay for school. These come from a wide range of sources, including private organizations and national companies. Unlike loans, scholarships do not have to be repaid, but rather are awarded based on certain qualifications. These qualifications can be quite specific, which is what makes scholarship matching and search services so helpful to students. These services match students to potential scholarships that they fit the qualifications to receive. This helps narrow down the search to possibilities that are actually in line with the student’s qualifications.
Consider the Costs of the Colleges and Plan Accordingly
Knowing what college could potentially cost is also important in helping the student plan. Financial calculators are valuable in this planning. They help predict the costs of college, loan repayment terms and even basic budgeting needs. College cost calculators go beyond the tuition costs and factor in the cost of room and board, fees, books, and other common college expenses. With the right calculator, a student and his or her family can have a very clear expectation of what they will need to pay for school.
Once loans and other options for financial aid have been exhausted and financial calculators have helped predict all costs, students may still find that they need more money. Careful budgeting can help the dollar stretch, freeing more of the student’s money to pay for school. Budgeting also helps students avoid wasting money on the social aspects of school when that money is needed to pay for tuition and books. Budgeting worksheets lay out the common expenses for students so they can make wise financial decisions.
College is expensive, but it does not have to be out of reach. Help is available in the form of grants, loans, and scholarships. Calculators and budgeting worksheets help students plan for the costs of their education. With these tools, most students can find a way to pay for school.
Financial Aid Resources
- Free Application for Federal Student Aid Dept. of Ed Website
- Free FAFSA ebook Guide to Completing the FAFSA (FAFSAonline.com)
- FinAid: The SmartStudent Guide to Financial Aid
- National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators
- Scholarships Search Tips and Advice
- CNNMoney: How to Find College Scholarships
- Student Scholarship Search
- CollegeToolKit.com: Calculators
- Amherst College: Financial Aid Calculator
- Bankrate: Student Budgeting Calculator
- Dartmouth College: Net Price Calculator
- Student Loan Payment Calculator
College Budgeting Worksheets
- Clarkson College: Budgeting for College
- PBS.org: College Budget Worksheet (PDF)
- College Board: Semester Budget Worksheet (PDF)