Smart Money: How to Plan for College Fees

A college education can be costly. According to the College Board’s 2017 Trends in College Pricing report, the average total tuition, fee, room, and board charges are $20,770 for in-state tuition and fees in the public four-year sector. Meanwhile, the average total charges for out-of-state public institutions are $36,420 and for private non-profit, four-year institutions, the total fees are $46,950.

If you or someone you know is going to go to college soon, then now is the time to start planning how to pay for it. Luckily, there are many ways that you can offset the costs of higher education. The folks at have helpfully detailed some of these ways.

Submit a FAFSA Application

FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is a form that you can fill out to determine whether you’re eligible for student financial aid. The federal government uses the FAFSA to determine a student’s financial needs. Here are the basic eligibility criteria you need to meet. You must:

  • be a US citizen or an eligible non-citizen
  • have a valid Social Security Number
  • have a high school diploma or GED certificate
  • be enrolled or accepted to enroll as a student in an eligible degree or certificate program

Most students will be able to fulfill these basic criteria for financial aid.

Search for Scholarships

Scholarships or grants are often awarded based on academic merit, talent, or participation in organizations, so you should build your portfolio as early as you can. Make sure to check your local businesses, churches, or organizations for possible scholarship grants and always take note of eligibility requirements and deadlines.

Avoid Loans

Loans create debt, and you want to avoid debt as much as possible. Only go for a loan when you have exhausted all other options. However, if you are opting for a loan, make sure that you do your research first. Government loans, such as the Stafford loan, often offer much lower interest rates and fees than private loans.

Open a 529 College Savings Account

Calculator, paper, and coins on the tableA 529 plan is a college savings account that is exempted from federal tax. Any US citizen 18 years old and above can open a 529 account, usually for a younger beneficiary such as a child, grandchild, or younger relative. However, adults can also open accounts for themselves, since there is no age limit.

Buy Secondhand

Buying new textbooks for every class that you have every semester is going to cost you a lot of money, especially since you likely won’t be using that textbook once the class is done. Instead, you should look for secondhand copies of the same book online. Alternatively, you can also check if your school has a book rental program or uses electronic textbooks.

Create a Budget

Once you research the costs of college, you should create a budget based on your findings. When you plan a budget for college, you have less stress and more money to put into your or your child’s future.

Higher fees and charges often come with a higher education. Fortunately, you don’t have to carry all the costs by yourself; there are many places that you can go to for help and many things that you can do to manage your money for college.

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