How to Afford College

  • 529 Savings Plans
  • Advanced Placement Courses
  • Scholarships
  • Loans
  • Work-Study

As college tuition rises, more high school students and their parents are struggling to figure out how to afford college. The average price of a public college is over $22,000 per year; private colleges cost almost double at over $43,000 per year. Not only are these costs rising, they are rising at rates that eclipse inflation. However, college is still a sound investment. Below are some tips on how to afford your higher education.

529 Savings Plans

Parents can open special savings plans known as 529 plans for their children's education. These plans are different from typical investment accounts for two main reasons. As long as the funds are used for education costs, you can withdraw money from them without incurring any tax or penalty, and less than 6 percent of their assets will be considered by a college financial aid office when determining the size of a family's financial aid package.

Advanced Placement Courses

AP courses are high school classes that many schools will count towards your college credit total. This saves money because these courses, which are free in public schools, will cancel out the need for their more expensive college counterparts. At the end of each AP course, the students take a test to assess their comprehension of the material. The score the students receive on the test will determine the number of credits they are eligible for at their chosen college.

Scholarships

Often, students will not apply for scholarships, believing that they have to be academic geniuses in order to receive one. This is not the case, however. While many scholarships are issued based on test scores and grades, there are many others that are issued based on athletics, extra-curricular activities and community involvement. For this reason, all high school students should apply for as many scholarships as they can.

Loans

Students can apply for federally funded student loans that are issued based on financial need. These college loans, called Stafford loans, come in two types: subsidized and unsubsidized. The government will pay the interest on subsidized loans until the student graduates; however, students are responsible for all interest incurred on unsubsidized loans. Freshmen may receive up to $5,500 in Stafford loans. This amount increases year to year until it hits $7,500 for juniors and seniors.

Work-study

Students can also pay for college the old-fashioned way: by working. Federal work-studies are jobs on campus, at a government agency, a nonprofit organization or a for-profit organization that are funded by the federal government and the college itself. Such jobs pay at least minimum wage and often higher. To obtain such a job, students must indicate on their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) that they are willing to accept such a position.

College can be expensive. The investment is worth it, however. College grads on average earn over $1 million more over their lifetimes than individuals with high school degrees alone. It takes some legwork, but with so many opportunities for financial assistance, no high school student should wonder how to afford college.