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4 Ways to Pay for College

Posted by Julian Rivas on April 30, 2018
A student looking at her tablet and smiling

The U.S has reached more than $1.4 trillion in student loan debt – including both federal and private student loans. Paying for college is a daunting challenge for most families and usually involves assistance from a variety of sources – from financial aid, savings, grants and scholarships. With a little elbow grease and research, there are ways you can pay your tuition without getting clobbered in student loan debt.

Federal Student Aid

The U.S Department of Education provides more than $120 billion a year in student aid. Thousands of schools across the nation partake in federal student aid programs – covering expenses such as tuition fees, books, supplies, and transportation.

According to NerdWallet, roughly 1.3 million high school graduates failed to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form during the 2016-17 academic year. Out of those graduates, 49% of them would have been eligible for a Pell Grant. In conclusion, NerdWallet’s analysis showed that the total amount left on the block by all graduates was roughly $2.3 million – close to $3,500 per student.

Knowing this information shows how much student aid is at your disposal. Missing the chance to apply for free financial aid could mean taking on more debt to pay for college. Filling out the FAFSA is also the only way to borrow federal student loans – which means lower interest rates and more repayment options. The good thing about student loans is that they are often structured like Installment Loans; set up to be paid back in scheduled payments.

Types of Federal Student Aid

  • FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)
  • FPG (Federal Pell Grant)
  • FSEOG (Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant)
  • PLUS (Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students)
  • FPL (Federal Perkins Loan)


The good thing about scholarships is that they are not a loan. It’s simply money that is given to you. No strings attached. There are tons of scholarship opportunities based on a variety of qualifications – academics, athletics, location, accomplishments, and much more.  High schools typically have resources and guidance counselors to help students find scholarships they may be able to qualify for.

A lot of companies, non-profits and community groups offer scholarships to students based off specific requirements. Searching and applying for scholarships should be a top priority. The more applications you submit, the greater the chances are of you winning.

If you’re looking to apply for a scholarship at this very moment, check out our MoneyKey Key Thinkers Scholarship for a chance to be awarded $2500.

Pay for College by Working

If you happen to be one of those students that has their full education paid for, be grateful. Not every student is as lucky. Although you may want to pay for school without working, getting a job should certainly be something you may want to consider.  Working on the side can be a great way to cover some of your expenses throughout the school year. It’s essential to balance your academics with your job. If you can handle both a job and a full work load, then by all means go for it.

If you can get a part-time job in your area of study, all the better. Leaving your mark at a potential company that you could work for after graduating is the best-case scenario. If you’re looking for some ideas on side-jobs that are worth considering, check out these part-time college jobs.

Choose the Right School

Paying for school should be considered an investment in your future. The cost of college varies a lot depending on the school of choice. Making sure you choose a school that aligns with your budget can potentially save you a lot of money in the long run. Once you have an idea of what scholarships, grants and financial aid you will be receiving, it will give you a better idea of what schools to aim for.

While out-of-state/private schools are generally more expensive than in-state schools, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Out-of-state schools often spend most of their funding on faculty research.
  2. In-state-schools spend a good chunk of their funding on student learning.
  3. Private school residence tends to be on the expensive side.
  4. Going to school out-of-state can encourage personal growth/independence.

You can still get a good quality education at an in-state-school, just because it’s cheaper doesn’t mean it should solidify your decision. If you have a strong academic performance, you should still apply to out-of-state/private schools – you never know what type of financial aid or scholarships they will offer you based on your grades.

Financing a college education is not an easy task but taxing every option to make it an easier path will help you out in the long run. We hope this post was useful, and if you are looking for extra ways to save money while in school – don’t forget to check out our Managing Your Finances as a College Student blog.


Disclaimer: This article provides general information only and does not constitute financial, legal or other professional advice. For full details, see MoneyKey's Terms of Use.

Posted in: Financial Tips

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