How to Pay for College

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Anne Weeks
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paying for college48% of returning college students are worried about paying for their education in the coming year.

What’s the answer?


A report from Money Across Generations cites the following findings in baby boomer opinions:

  • About half of baby boomers say they are optimistic about the financial future of the U.S.
  • Just 17% say they are “very optimistic” about their personal financial future (remember, these are people bringing in $100,000+ a year)
  • 45% of baby boomers worry that their children’s financial situation will prohibit them from having the same opportunities they have enjoyed; and
  • 55% are concerned their children will not have enough financial resources to achieve a secure retirement.

With such uncertainty, it is imperative to consider all avenues of financial assistance for paying for college. With a college degree being essential in an uncertain employment market, graduating with the least amount of debt will position the graduate for success.


48% of returning college students are worried about paying for their education in the coming year


Forbes shares the following 10 ways to pay for college:


Apply for Financial Aid with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Never assume you don’t qualify, as you may be surprised. Also, in many cases, in order to qualify for a grant or institution based scholarship, you will need to have filed a FAFSA. Some private colleges also require the CSS Be sure to ask what the requirements are. It is also prudent to ask the college’s financial aid office of the financial aid package they give you will stay consistent for four years. Some colleges are known the reduce a package after the freshman year.

2. Grants:

Apply for national grants. Be sure to ask your student’s guidance counselor about the Pell grant and others that may be available.

3. Local Scholarships:

Apply for local scholarships. Some will be for one year, and others will be for all 4 years, dependent on maintaining a certain GPA. Many seem small, but they can add up. Be sure, though, to ask the college financial aid offices of the colleges to which your student applies to see how any private scholarships are figured into the financial aid package. At some colleges, the money is applied to your out-of-pocket expense, but at other colleges, they will reduce the grant money from the college, which essentially helps them and not you.

4. Expected Family Contribution:

Most colleges now have a cost calculator on their website, where you can estimate what your out-of-pocket costs will be. Make sure you sit down with your student to discuss what you can afford. Then, look at the proposed college list and use the cost calculator to see which schools are within reach. Make sure to have a wide variety of choices, including both public and private. Often, private schools can provide more aid and are less expensive despite the higher tuition tag.

5. Bargain:

Don’t be afraid to bargain. Once you have all the acceptances and their financial aid packages on the table, do not hesitate to meet with a financial aid office to compare their package to one from another school. If you develop a relationship with a specific financial aid officer during the financial aid application process, it will be easier to then negotiate with someone with whom you have built a relationship.

6. Service:

There are service organizations that can help pay for college with an understanding of service commitment: Americorps, Peace Corps,National Health Services Corps, ROTC, etc.

7. Abroad:

Do not rule out studying abroad. Many fine universities in Europe and Canada are significantly cheaper.

8. Stay Local:

Start at your local community college to complete all the foundation courses and then transfer to a four year college to finish your degree. Attend a local university and live at home, saving on room and board – a hefty chunk of the total cost for college.

9. Taxes:

Look into tax credits, such as the American Opportunity Credit and Lifetime Learning Credit.

10. Guidance Counselor:

Use your guidance counselor. They are often aware of opportunities not widely advertised, and better yet, their help is free.


make it rain gifIt may feel awkward to sit down with your student to discuss family finances, but the best lesson you can teach is to make a wise investment in college, allowing your student more flexibility upon graduation without the stress of debt dictating the job they choose. Planning for all four years is essential.

Time and effort devoted to planning and researching options will lead to a more satisfying outcome. Good Luck!


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Anne Weeks

Anne Macleod Weeks is a graduate of Lawrence and Villanova Universities. She has been an educational administrator and English teacher for 38 years, specializing in the area of college admission. Ms. Weeks has been a leader in the college admission and Advanced Placement arenas and has published on pertinent educational topics in a variety of national papers and journals. She currently resides in Nova Scotia, Canada.

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