A college education is one of the largest financial investments you'll make for your future. You have a lot of options when it comes to choosing a program and a school that's right for you, all of which cost some money and most of which cost a lot. Fortunately, you also have several options when it comes to managing your financial commitment.
Whether you are just now exploring how much college costs or planning your continued education, you may feel a little overwhelmed. Don't let that stop you from pursuing your dreams. Remember:
The money you spend now is an investment.
With a college education, you can earn up to $800,000 more over your lifetime than you would with only a high school diploma, according to a 2007 College Board study. With costs rising yearly, a semester of college costs less now than it will later on.
- Private four-year college - $4,000 - $64,862 per academic year
- Public four-year university - $9,411 - $10,497 per academic year
- Public two-year college - $5,190-$6,780 per academic year ($173-$226 per credit hour)
Remember, you'll also have to pay for for housing, food, transportation, fees and personal expenses. Most colleges have an estimated cost for these expenses.
Make a Plan to Cover 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.
Types of Financial Aid
Financial aid is simply the grants, scholarships, work-study and/or federal loans you qualify for. 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 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 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 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.
- Student loans must be repaid (with interest) and 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.