The cost of continuing education is rising, which makes college costs intimidating for the average student. This is especially true if you’re an adult with other full time responsibilities such as work and family. Never fear!
Financing your college education is entirely possible with some dedication on your part. With the right amount of planning and preparation, you can battle college costs one paycheck at a time.
Financial Aid. The first step to battling college expense is to keep the amount you owe as little as possible. Are you familiar with the acronym FAFSA? It stands for Free Application for Student Financial Aid. The online application is easy to fill out. Make sure you have all your personal information handy before you start:
• Your social security card (or alien registration number if you aren’t a citizen)
•The most recent copies of your tax return(s)
•Other records of money you have earned, both taxed and untaxed
•Your Federal Financial Aid Pin (visit http://www.pin.ed.gov to get one)
You may also be eligible for college scholarships and grants (woo-hoo – free money!) that will reduce your total college costs even further. Here is a listing of scholarships that we offer: http://www.pit.edu/Financial-Aid/Scholarships-Info
Scholarships. While school loans may seem exciting at first, just remember that each one of those loans has to be paid back, usually with interest, beginning six months after you leave school. That can take a big chunk out of your paycheck. Scholarships and grants are free money that never has to be paid back. Try to apply for as many as possible to minimize your total loan and tuition repayment.
Contact your school’s financial aid office, and check out websites like:
• Free Application for Federal Student Aid – http://www.fafsa.ed.gov
• Federal Student Aid: An Office of the U.S. Department of Education – http://studentaid.ed.gov/
• Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency – http://www.pheaa.org/
• GI Bill Website: U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs – http://gibill.va/gov/
• Today’s GI Bill – Website Sponsored by ACE – http://www.todaysgibill.org/
• National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators: Students, Parents & Counselors Page – http://www.nasfaa.org/students/About_Financial_Aid.aspx
• Career One Stop, Scholarship Search Webpage – Sponsored by the U.S. Dept. of Labor – http://www.careerinfonet.org/scholarshipsearch/ScholarshipCategory.asp?searchtype=category&nodeid=22
• FastWeb – www.fastweb.com
• FinAid: The SmartStudent™ Guide to Financial Aid – www.finaid.org
• Mach25 at CollegeNet – http://www.collegenet.com/mach25/app
• Paying for College at Big Future sponsored by the College Board – https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/pay-for-college
• Scholarship Provider.net – www.scholarshipprovider.net
• Scholarships.com – www.scholarships.com
• TG™ Adventures in Education, Paying for College Webpage – http://www.aie.org/paying-for-college/
Each of these websites is private, which means they don’t share your information with others.
Monthly payments. Once you’ve whittled down your total college costs, you will have a more manageable amount to work with. Most colleges offer flexible payment plans so you can make payments on a monthly basis, a paycheck or two at a time. Check into these plans first as they are often zero- or low-interest. You can also use low-interest student loans, which are paid in monthly installments, but remember to only borrow what you absolutely need.
Remember: education pays. The more education individuals have, the more they earn and the less likely they are to be unemployed. Your higher paycheck will make it easier to land your ideal job and battle the cost of college one paycheck at a time.