College is one of the highest expenditures among families in the country. According to the College Board, the average cost of an annual college tuition fees is about $37K. This excludes other costs like accommodations and expenses.
Very few students can afford these costs adequately. As a result, they turn to college debt, which has ballooned to more than $1.48 trillion.
So, if you are wondering about the best ways to pay for college fees, here are a few expert-recommended ways to do that.
Chose an Affordable College
Does the college you attend really matter? Is a student from Harvard better than one from Georgia University?
These are questions that have baffled researchers for decades. Research by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) showed that while there was a wage difference between students who graduate from ivy league schools, the difference was not very pronounced.
The reality is, some colleges are more marketable than others. A law graduate from Harvard will be considered more than a law graduate from a small community college.
However, experts advise people who have money problems to consider applying for good and affordable colleges.
If your finances are really stretched, you can start by going to a community college, where tuition averages less than $3,500 per year.
Fill Out the FAFSA
Even when you think you don’t qualify for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), experts believe you should apply.
Every year, FAFSA provides more than $120 billion in federal-state aid to millions of recipients. By filling out the simple form, you could be eligible to get federal grants, student loans, and some form of student aid.
Tip: Fill the form as soon as possible because some colleges use a first-come-first-serve basis to award these funds.
Apply for Scholarship
Every year, students are offered billions of dollars in scholarships. Foundations like Davidson Foundation, Jack Kent Cooke, and Siemens provide billions of dollars in education aid.
At the same time, millions of students apply for these scholarships. Experts recommend that you apply for as many scholarships as you can.
Doing that will increase your chances of getting a favorable scholarship.
Here are a few tips on how to apply for a scholarship:
Apply for local scholarships.
Apply for scholarships that have a long application procedure.
Read and reread your scholarship application essay.
Never use quotes.
Stick to the word count.
Apply for the scholarship early.
Write the essay, and take time before you send it.
Apply for Grants
A 2016 study by Nerdwallet found that students leave billions of dollars in Pell Grant. This is a government grant that provides college funding to poor students who don’t have a college degree. In 2016, the amount totaled to more than $2.7 billion.
As a needy student, applying for such a grant will significantly help you offset the tuition costs.
Since most financial aid covers tuition, you will need to spend your savings to pay for other college needs like accommodations, clubs, and meals. These additional costs are often 34% of the total college fees.
Regardless of how you plan to pay for your college, you should start saving for this early on. Parents can open a 529 plan. This is a federal plan that encourages parents to start saving for tuition early in their kids’ lives.
Apart from this, parents can open a savings and interest-earning account.
Most fresh graduates face a major problem when applying for jobs where most employers demand relevant experience.
How do you get the experience as a full-time student?
A simple and effective way is to use work-study programs. These programs will give you the relevant experience, expose you to valuable networks, and also help you pay for tuition.
The Federal Work Study (FWS) program provides needy students with part-time jobs to help them pay for tuition. On average, students make more than $18,000 in these programs.
If you don’t qualify for these programs, you can use websites like FlexJobs and WayUp to get private part-time jobs. You can also use sites like Upwork and Fiverr to find quality freelancing opportunities.
Alternatively, you can also become an Uber driver during your free time. If you make $80 every day doing this, you will end up making more than $25K every year.
Claim the $2,500 Tax Credit
The government, through the American Opportunity Tax Credit, allows people to reduce their taxes after paying for tuition, fees, books, and accommodation.
Through this tax credit, you can claim a maximum of $2,500 per year. As a parent, to qualify for these funds, you need to have an annual gross income of not more than $90,000.
This $2,500 credit will go a long way in helping you pay for the college tuition.
Go to a Nearby College
College accommodations are expensive. On average, a college room cost between $10,000 to $11,800 a month. While staying at home can be boring, it can save you all this money every year.
Alternatively, you can find another student and share expenses for a room. On average, this can save you more than $5,000 every year.
If you regularly watch the news or use social media, you likely know that the country is divided. However, the real world is full of highly generous people who are always ready to help.
If you are really in need of help, I recommend that you use different crowdfunding platforms like Indiegogo and GoFundMe.
Here are a few recommendations when crowdfunding:
Be as honest as possible.
Share the real story and when possible, attach supporting documents.
Share your story with top influencers. Some will be ready to share the story.
Make regular updates.
Take Private Loans
When the above fails, you should now turn to the private sector for loans. Many financial service companies offer these loans. To get the best loan, you should shop around to find the companies that have the lowest interest rates.
When taking these loans, always do the following:
Always read the terms and conditions.
Compare the interest rates and terms from different lenders.
Consult an expert on these issues.
Use a loan calculator to see how much you’ll owe later.
Remember, regardless of which method you use, college will always be expensive, and various unbudgeted expenses will often crop up.