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How to Afford College

Financial fears have become synonymous with diplomas and college admissions. The terror is not only whether or not you will be admitted into the college of your choice. Rather, the fear of college has now been transferred into economics. How will I afford to pay for my education?

With the rising costs of education in the United States, many people are going into greater and greater debt. People want to go to specific schools. People want to have fun. People want to live away from home. Consequently, costs increase and fears abound.

There are several ways to afford college. Here is our lists on the good and not-so-good methods of paying for those diplomas:

  1. FAFSA
  2. The US government loans definite amounts of money every year to every student who needs it. This is mandated by law.

    • Freshman: $2,625
    • Sophomore: $3,500
    • Junior: $5,500
    • Senior: $5,500
    • (Graduate student): $18,500

    You must fill out a FAFSA form (www.fafsa.gov) to qualify for the government loan. Then, your school will receive a check for that amount for tuition. The government loans (also known as Stafford loans) are subsidized loans. Subsidized loans mean that the interest rate is subsidized by the government so that you are not building up enormous interest rates on your loans while in school. The government also grants unsubsidized loans. These are not as good. However, they rae much better than private loans.

  3. Private Loans
  4. Most banks will loan students money for college. Students borrow thousand upon thousands of dollars for their education. The problem with private loans is that their interest rates are rather high. This means that the percentage of the money you have to pay back is much larger than the government grants. Therefore, the fewer private loans (with banks) you own, the better. The way to get private loans is through your university. They will initiate the process between the lender (bank) and the guarantor (you).

  5. School Scholarship
  6. Several schools give out scholarships to students. If you are lucky to be a top athlete, national-merit finalist, overall leader, or any combination thereof, many schools will be competing for you. In order to apply for these merit based or athletic scholarships, contact each school individually.

  7. Government Grants
  8. General Scholarships
  9. You can apply for general scholarships through national organizations and contests. See the How to Afford College Guide for more information.

  10. Get a Job
  11. While it may be frustrating, most people work in college for extra money. You may be borrowing money from the government for your tuition, but need extra money for rent and food and entertainment. Find a part-time job to pay for the rest of those expenses. If you have already been approved for a government loan, then you will be approved for a work-study job. Colleges offer thousands of work-study jobs in every dorm, field, class, building on campus. Work-study jobs are designed for college students and are set up to allow them to study while they work. Such jobs include manning the front desk at the library, counting money in a cash register, and tutoring. The financial benefit of these small jobs is that the government takes almost no taxes from your paycheck. Consequently, you will be making much more money than you previously imagined.

  12. Go To School Part Time and Work Part Time
  13. If you absolutely cannot take out loans or do not want to go into debt, then you will be able to go to school at a slower pace so that you work full time or part time along the way. If your outside job is paying for your tuition, college may take you five or six or even seven years. However, when you get out, you will have paid for college and will have no debt.

While the fear of debt and terror of financial aid looms in your mailbox, ponder some positive thinking. While you may go into debt for college, you are able to do so. People in other countries are not allowed to go to school if they do not have the money up front for tuition. Consequently, only a small percentage of the population can attend higher education. In the United States, people cannot use the same excuse that "I can't afford college." The truth is that some people can afford it more easily than others. However, anyone can go to college if he or she wants to go to college. Our government and our financial institutions are designed to allow anyone to borrow money for education. Therefore, if you are willing to go into debt for your education, you are able to afford college. It is a double-edged sword, but one that you are lucky to carry.