Understand College Costs - Iowa College Access Network - ICAN

Understand College Costs

You might be shocked when you see the cost of college for the first time. Take a deep breath — financial assistance and other options are available.

First, consider what money you have available to you right now. Perhaps you and/or your parents have been able to save enough money to pay for at least some of college. Even if you haven't, it's not too late to start. The more money you can contribute up front, the less you'll have to pay back later.

Talk to your parents about savings or investments you may be able to tap. This is also the time to discuss how much of your education you can each pay for.

Keep in mind that, with financial aid in the form of scholarships, grants, work-study and student loans, you may pay less than the average. So, keep a positive attitude and keep working toward your dreams.

Type of College Average Tuition Rates in Iowa 
Private four-year $13,000-$52,392 per academic year
Public four-year (Iowa Regents) $8,938-$8,492
per academic year
Public two-year (Iowa) $156-$199 per credit hour

Real Advice from Real People 
Understanding the cost of college is a first step in succeeding in college.



Remember, you'll also have to pay for room and board, transportation, fees and personal expenses. Most colleges have an estimated cost for these expenses.


Financial Aid

Financial aid is simply the grants, scholarships, work-study and/or federal loans you qualify for. See types of financial aid. (PDF) To apply for aid, you'll need to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and submit it to the U.S. Department of Education. The FAFSA is a free form that may be completed without professional assistance via paper or electronic forms provided by the U.S. Department of Education. If you need help, ICAN offers no cost assistance.

Grants.Grants are given by the government, schools or organizations to help you through school. Grants do not need to be repaid and are usually given based on financial need. Grants are awarded as part of your overall financial aid package.

Scholarships.Scholarships also don't need to be repaid and are usually given based on financial need or merit (meaning you've earned it by being a good student, a good athlete or meeting some other qualification). Scholarships are awarded by private donors or schools.

Work-study. This program involves a part-time job, usually on campus, so you earn a paycheck (usually to cover personal expenses) while attending school. Work-study jobs are awarded as part of your overall financial aid package, but you'll need to check the openings and apply for jobs.

Loans. Because all loans must be repaid (with interest), they are often used to cover expenses that can't be paid for in other ways. Many college loans are set up so you don't need to begin making payments until after you graduate.

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