If you’ve been looking at colleges to attend, you might be wondering how you will manage the associated costs. It’s not just tuition, either, although that is certainly high enough. There’s also the cost of textbooks and other supplies as well as living expenses during the years that you’re a student. Even if you live on campus and take advantage of meal plans, the cost is still high. If you’re taking classes full time, it may be difficult or impossible to work more than part-time hours, and that can leave you without enough to cover your basic expenses, let alone the additional costs that come along with it. Fortunately, not only do you have several options, but how you pay for your education may change in the future.
College Costs Through the Years
Back in the late 17th century, you might have paid your Harvard tuition by bartering with a side of beef, some goats or malt and wheat. Times have changed, but contemporary students might look at a tuition bill and feel as though they might as easily conjure up a side of beef as that sum of money. There are almost as many answers to questions about why higher education costs so much more proportionately than it did 30, 40 or 50 years ago as there are people asking the question. The one thing that is certain is that it costs substantially more of a student or parent’s income than it did a generation ago, and that means strategies to cover the costs are needed. Working your way through college might have been possible for a modern-day student’s parents or grandparents, but this is largely no longer true, at least not in the types of jobs that students normally would get.
There are two big benefits to scholarships. One is that they can be extremely prestigious and the other is that you don’t have to repay them. Scholarships can mean that no school is out of reach for a talented, hardworking student, but often it is a matter of finding those scholarships. While there may be some that are widely advertised, others can be difficult to find, including those that might have very specific criteria, but which might also apply to you. A great way to locate them is at a site where you can search and apply for scholarships. You can also read more online about how to prepare a successful scholarship application.
Many people pay for at least some of their education with loans. These may be federal or private loans. You can find out about your eligibility for need-based federal loans by filling out a form known as the FAFSA. Private loans are another possibility, and these are not need-based although you may need a cosigner if you don’t have a credit history. If you do take out loans, it’s important to understand the implications of interest rates and have a strategy to pay off the debt. You can start paying down loans while you are still in school.
As a student there are ways you can make money and save it to temper the sting of your loan post-graduation. Alternatively, there are several other options that may be available depending on the field you work in. Some companies help with student loans as an employee perk. In some fields, you can work in a certain capacity for a period and get a portion of your student loans forgiven. Someone in a medical field might work at an underserved rural clinic or a teacher might work in a high-need area. Yet another option is joining the military, which can offer several different options including getting your degree before, during or after serving.
If you are considering this, contact a recruiter to discuss your plans and what might be the best approach for you. There are also ways to keep costs down. If you take AP classes in high school, you might be able to take a test that gives you credit instead of having to take classes. At some high schools, in your junior or senior year, it might be possible to take dual high school and college classes. Another option is two years at a local community college, where classes generally cost substantially less. If you choose one of these routes, just make sure that your credits will transfer.
At some point in the future, costs and how higher education is paid for may change as well. There is a practical limit to how much costs can outstrip inflation. This may have already begun as enrollment is starting to fall and cost increases are slowing down at some schools. There have also been calls for reform of both these costs and how student loans are structured. One solution some schools are exploring is guaranteeing that once a student is enrolled, their tuition cost will not rise. Other schools are looking at expanding financial aid so that students do not have to take out as much in loans. Some are lowering their tuition prices, and others may follow suit if enrollment continues to drop.