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Finding Ways to Pay for College

Jun 10 '10

College is a major life expense, so be proactive and get creative when trying to come up with the money to pay for college.

With the rising costs of books, food, gasoline, housing, and just about everything else, people across America are finding it's more taxing than ever to pay for college. Fortunately, help is available for college tuition from a number of sources that specialize in student loans, primarily government loans, private loans, college scholarships, military service loans, consolidation loans and community college.

Other sources of student loans to pay for college tuition include 529 college savings plans, financial aids, Federal Work-Study Programs, performing community service, and the always popular borrowing money from a richer relative and paying it back over time, with interest.

Government Loans for College Tuition

Most people start with government student loans, also known as Stafford Loans, to pay for college. You can also think about government loans for parents, also known as PLUS Loans. You can compare your costs and options at a number of sites that offer student loans, but FederalStudentAid.ed.gov is the Department of Education's FAFSA4caster that gives you an idea of whether or not you're eligible for federal aid with a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) estimating tool..

Student loans come two primary sources, the federal government and private lenders. In order to obtain federal student loans, you will first need to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is your application for all federal financial aid including federal student loans.

Overall, Federal Student Loans:

  • Are the most popular source to pay for college
  • Usually can be applied for and approved for college tuition through a private financial institution, such as Sallie Mae, which is America's leading provider of student loans
  • Generally have lower interest rates than private loans.

Private Loans for Student Loans

Private student loans or alternative loans for college tuition are usually designed to be a supplement to government loans to pay for college. These loans:

  • Can vary considerably in interest rates and terms, based on your family's credit history and current credit score
  • Are often a viable solution to filling the gap between your savings, your costs, and what you can gain from government loans and/or grants to pay for college
  • Can be received from your college, university, your bank or credit union.

College Scholarships to Pay for College

For many seeking student loans to pay for college tuition, you should consider a scholarship. After all:

  • Many companies offer some form of scholarships to the offspring of its employees
  • Some companies even support the children of alumni of certain illustrious universities
  • Scholarships to pay for college - to cover 100% of college tuition or for a portion - are often available to students with superior GPAs or SATs, athletic, artistic or musical skills, or outstanding aptitude.

Military Service Loans

The GI Bill, also known as the Montgomery GI Bill, provides up to 36 months of education benefits towards college tuition. These military service loans are:

  • Good towards business, technical, correspondence or vocational courses, apprenticeship or job training, or even flight school
  • Available for up to $36,000 in tuition, so it's a very viable way to earn money to pay for college while learning a skill or trade, seeing the world, and gaining some much-needed maturity.

Community Colleges

For many students, making the huge leap from high school to college is much easier if you first attend a local community college. These schools:

  • Offer a terrific way to pay for college for two years of education for about one-third the price of most four-year colleges
  • Give community college students who transfer to most four-year colleges automatic admission and scholarships to pay for college tuition to most four-year colleges.

Student Loan Consolidation Program

After college, many newly employed former college students consolidate their single or multiple student loans to:

  • Save money over previously higher interest rates
  • Receive a new repayment term after paying for the college tuition
  • Get one low, more affordable monthly payment.

The bottom-line with student loans is that you do have options when you can not pay all of your college costs out-of-pocket. Do your research first and be confident you get the student loan that's right for you.

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