If you’re a college-bound high school senior, or a parent of a student preparing college applications for fall 2019, you’re probably aware that the application deadline is fast approaching. Submitting your college application is a huge step toward realizing your dream of attending college, but it is not the only hurdle to overcome: Have you factored in all of the costs associated with attending college? Have you secured financing?
The Total Cost of Attending College
Although tuition varies based on the type of school you attend (public or private, in state or out of state, two- or four-year school, etc.), it is only a piece of the total cost of attending college. Additional expenses include housing, meals, textbooks, supplies and transportation, with some colleges also charging fees for library access, athletic programs, lab access and more.
Based on the estimated costs for the 2018-2019 academic year according to College Board’s “Trends in Higher Education,” the average annual bill for college attendance is now:
- Public two-year, in district (commuter): $12,320
- Public four-year, in state (on-campus): $21,370
- Public four-year, out of state (on-campus): $37,430
- Private non-profit four-year (on-campus): $48,510
Resources to Help Finance College Expenses
Paying tuition, fees, and associated costs is no small matter and will require a holistic approach to finding the right type of assistance. Below, we’ll explore different types of financial aid that can help make college more affordable, and set you on a path of higher learning.
1. Financial aid
- Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): Although not a loan application, completing the FAFSA is an important first step to help discover which loans, scholarships, grants or work-study programs you qualify for based on your unique situation. If requesting aid for the 2019-2020 academic school year, be sure to mark your calendar for the application deadline of June 30, 2020, as well as the FAFSA deadlines specific to each state. Also, keep in mind that it pays to apply as early as possible to ensure that you put yourself in the best position to access the limited funding available from federal programs including the Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, Federal Perkins Loan and Federal Subsidized and Unsubsidized Direct Loans. For assistance with completing the FAFSA, check out the Department of Education’s website or work directly with a financial counselor at your high school or preferred college.
- State-specific financial aid: Some states supplement federal student aid with a wide range of state-specific financial aid programs. Some examples include Texas’s financial aid program for youth aging out of foster care, Colorado’s need-based awards for students of low-income families, and the Monetary Award Program (MAP) by Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC), which awards over $400 million in grants to Illinois undergraduates who demonstrate financial need. Connect with your state’s education department early in the application process to ensure you do not miss the chance to access these unique opportunities to fund college expenses.
- Institutional financial aid: In addition to federal and state financial aid programs, most colleges also offer their own financial aid programs. To qualify, you may be asked to provide detailed information about your employment history, family’s financial situation and more. Be sure to check with your specific institution to locate the deadline for these applications.
A scholarship is another form of aid to help students cover college-related expenses. They are awarded based on a student’s academic standing, athletic performance, interest in a particular area of study, affiliation with a specific organization and a range of other criteria. Many students are eligible for a variety of scholarship opportunities which you can search via free resources like Scholarships.com, the U.S. Department of Labor’s scholarship search tool, your local library’s reference section, or through your high school counselor.
Some colleges also require prospective students looking for scholarship opportunities to fill out a College Scholarship Service (CSS) profile. This digital application is used by over 400 colleges to help students locate over $9 billion worth of scholarships and other academic aid. Submitting a CSS profile costs $25 for an initial college or scholarship program and runs around $16 for each additional report. These fees are often waived for low-income families.
3. Private Student Loans
Even with federal, state and college-specific financial aid and scholarship opportunities, you may still find yourself in need of securing additional funds. It’s important to always exhaust the above sources first before considering a private student loan (offered from financial institutions), as federal loans are often less expensive, with the widest variety of repayment options. However, private loans can be a necessity to bridge some of the gaps that federal loans and other aid leave behind. Like any other type of financial loan, be sure that you fully understand the terms, conditions, repayment schedule, and interest rate before signing on the dotted line.