Navigating the stresses and anxieties of college is difficult, and stress only increases considering the average cost of attending college has risen by 12% annually (2010-2022). Figuring out how to finance college only adds more challenges. Luckily, there are resources in place to help students and their families make their college dreams a reality.
Here are 4 tips to help you finance your child’s college experience:
1. Apply for Financial Aid.
The most common type of financial aid is Federal Student Aid, which can be applied for online through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is need-based financial aid that requires an updated application be submitted every school year to account for any changes in your family’s financial situation. Applying for FAFSA is a great way to start financing college as it does not have to be paid back post-graduation and has no effect on the college’s admission decision for your child. Be sure to check with the Financial Aid Office at your child’s college as they may have their own deadlines for FAFSA submission.
FAFSA application 2023-2024 deadline: June 30, 2024
To apply for FAFSA, visit: https://studentaid.gov/h/apply-for-aid/fafsa
Apply for non-governmental aid. Both families that do and do not qualify for federal student aid are eligible for funds through the CSS. The College Scholarship Service (CSS Profile) is available through College Board and determines the student’s eligibility for aid such as the college’s own grants, scholarships, and loans.
To apply for non-governmental financial aid, visit: https://cssprofile.collegeboard.org/
2. Apply For Scholarships and Grants.
Every year in the U.S., more than 1.7 million scholarships are awarded through private organizations and grants. Many scholarship awards are only a few hundred dollars, but they can add up quickly so apply to as many as you can. Remember, however, that many scholarships have strict eligibility requirements, so it is a better use of time to apply to smaller scholarships that match your characteristics rather than the “longshots”.
The main difference between a scholarship and a grant is that scholarships are often merit-based while grants are need-based, however, the terms are often used interchangeably. There are many ways to find scholarships; a great way to start is by looking online through websites such as scholarships.com/ or even on social media platforms such as LinkedIn.
3. Apply For Student Loans.
The average cost of attendance for in-state college students is $26,027 per year, and although scholarships and financial aid can help decrease this cost, many families turn to student loans to afford the remainder.
There are two types of student loans; federal student loans, which are funded by the federal government, and private student loans, which are funded by a private lending institution. Both loans serve the same purpose, however, federal student loans are often less expensive, with benefits such as a fixed interest rate and income-based repayment plans. Only students who are eligible for FAFSA are eligible for federal student loans, and students who do not qualify are still eligible to apply for private student loans.
For more information about student loans visit: studentaid.gov/understand-aid/types/loans/federal-vs-private
4. Create A Payment Plan.
Schools are aware that the majority of their students are not able to pay their tuition and fees all at once and offer payment plans, often called Tuition Installment Plans. These plans break tuition down into monthly payments that are often interest-free and can make the cost of college much more manageable. Unlike loans, Tuition Installment Plans cannot be deferred and must be paid while the student is attending school. These plans also often include a Setup Fee as well as holding strict academic requirements for students with a payment plan. For more specific questions about Tuition Installment Plans, contact the Financial Aid Office at your child’s college.
Set your child up for success this application season and apply for our 2023 CTFCU Legacy Scholarship! We are awarding TEN individual members with a $1,500 scholarship for the 2024-2025 school year. Visit, ctelco.org/scholarship-opportunities/ to learn more—online applications are OPEN NOW!