According to the College Board, annual tuition and fees are almost $9,000 for in-state students, $22,000 for out-of-state students and $30,000 for private university. Multiply that by the four years it takes to earn a degree (assuming you don't change majors), and you're looking at one hefty price tag. Since no 18-year-old can fork over tens of thousands of dollars out-of-pocket, the government instituted financial aid to help students afford an education. Financial aid consists of student loans issued by the government, scholarships, grants and/or paid help from your employer. In order to receive financial aid, the student must fill out FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), which determines who qualifies. Here are different types of financial aid:
Student loans There are two types of student loans - subsidized and unsubsidized. Subsidized loans are given to students who have a low enough income to fall into the "need" category. These loans have a low interest rate and do not start accruing interest until the student pays them back. Unsubsidized loans are for students whose income (or parent's income) is too high to fall into the "need" category (determined by the FAFSA). Unsubsidized loans have a slightly higher interest rate and start accruing interest immediately.
Grants are awarded to those who need them and do not have to be paid back. The Pell Grant is the most common and the amount a student gets is determined by their FAFSA.
Scholarships are awarded for a variety of reasons. There are scholarships for those who excel academically, those who excel at sports, those who are majoring in nursing, those who are single parents, etc. Essentially there's a scholarship out for every type of student - it's just up to the student to look for and apply for them. Two good websites are www.scholarships.com andwww.fastweb.com.
Paid help from your employer Some companies offer to pay a portion of or all of a student's tuition. Usually, there's an agreement once the student graduates - such as the student must continue working at that company for three years upon graduation. Hospitals, banks and schools are known for helping students. It may be worth it to get a job at one of these locations (hospital if you plan on being a nurse; bank if you plan on majoring in business; school if you want to teach) before applying for school.
What about online school? Colleges and universities are offering classes, and entire degrees, online. This new way of learning is perfect for older students who work fulltime but wish to change careers, for busy parents of young kids, or for those who prefer to learn from home. So, many students wonder, "Can you get financial aid for online learning?" The answer is yes.
Get that FAFSA and get started on the rest of your life!
About the Author: Sarah Brooks is a freelance writer living in Glendale, AZ. She writes on personal finance, small businesses and travel.