Great Resources For Financing Your College Education

Financial aid is a concern for college students and parents alike. Because the government’s financial aid litmus test uses a typical 1967 family budget, many average families need to come up with more money up front for college costs. Looking for financial help can be a daunting task to the uninitiated.

The price of college depends on where the student goes, and whether they need room and board. A small community college can be as low as $4,000 per year if room and board is not necessary, and a private university can cost more than $40,000 per year including the room and board. Hidden costs are also a factor. Although a school provides information about book fees, living expenses and other miscellaneous fees, try to do some research of your own to be sure these fees are reasonable and realistic. Take into account transportation, activity costs, miscellaneous food bills, etc.

Three major types of financing can be considered. Work-study programs are available at most campuses. These programs offer an on-campus job to the student. While they are not high paying positions, they do offer some benefits such as low hours and location. The job is usually on campus so transportation is not required, and the pay is not included in financial need considerations. The second type of financing available to almost everyone is a loan. These are the least desirable method because they must be paid back with interest, but this interest rate is lower through the government than a private bank. The third method, and most popular, is a grant. Grants are awarded based on financial need or by merit. If the family can show the need for financial help or if the student has a talent or skill, they may be eligible for a grant. Being offered a grant is very desirable because they do not have to be paid back.

While the first thought of many financial aid shoppers is the government, other options are available. If the student is not eligible for a grant or scholarship, resources for paying college tuition include retirement accounts, home equity loans or private education loans which are also known as alternative student loans. This type of loan should be thought of as a last resort because of the higher interest rates charged. Several sites are available that serve the tuition shopper by streamlining the process and making much information available in one place. Be sure to have important financial documents, social security numbers and other pertinent information gathered beforehand to keep the process flowing.

If your student has been denied financial aid, you can file an appeal to the board. Give the board specific reasons why your case should be considered. Offer details of the family budget, and what other situations need to be covered by the savings account. If the family has medical bills, give real numbers. Get your paperwork in as early as possible because some money is given in the order in which the applications are received.

  • FinAid - a no-nonsense list of funding methods, and also offers articles to educate the financial aid shopper.
  • Federal Student Aid - takes you by the hand through the federal student aid application.
  • Profile - a tool for connecting students with financial aid.
  • Leveraging your way to financial aid - This article explains this method in depth.
  • Federal Student Aid - Advice from the government about preparing your family for college costs and the effects of using home equity loans and 401ks.
  • Seven Alternative Ways to Pay For College - Alternative methods for paying for school, including accelerated degrees and tuition-free schools.
  • Sallie Mae - a resource with calculators, articles and application tools.
  • FastWeb - matches you up with appropriate scholarships.
  • College Board - helps with everything from SATs to scholarships to loan applications.
  • WinScholarships - coaches students and families on how to win scholarships.
  • College Scholarships - gives advice on which scholarship is right for your situation.
  • Student Loan Funding - offers options for private funding.
  • 1-2-3 Approach To Paying For College - Preparing for getting a loan is made easy with this checklist.
  • Payway - offers a 10 minute process to help determine what payment methods are best for your student.
  • MyCollegeInfo - a comprehensive site dealing with the ‘strategy’ of dealing with loan applications.
  • Liberty Online - (PDF Document) the benefits of several tax-deferred savings plans meant for tuition.
  • College.Gov - an invaluable tool to learn about student aid as well as where to get it.
  • istudentloan - an information portal that makes the application process more streamlined.
  • SayStudent - has worksheets for budgeting and keeping track of tuition money.
  • OffToCollege - has many worksheets, articles and calculators for parents with kids at every stage of education.
  • CFD - a directory of most available money sources.
  • CollegeZone - a directory for grants that are divided into different professions.

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