Tips for financing a college education

Article written by Vickie LeFlore, Positive Youth Development Extension Educator. 
Originally published in the Kenosha News.

The cost of attending college is becoming increasingly expensive. And the financial responsibility that comes with furthering one’s education is sometimes a major determining factor of a student choosing to attend or not attend.

However, there are steps to making college more affordable, or at least less expensive.

How expensive is it? According to the College Board, the average yearly cost of just tuition and fees at a four-year college or university can range from $13,500 (for in-state students at public schools) to $32,300 (for students at private institutions).

There are many variables to consider as students are exploring and making decisions about life after high school. These variables can have a significant impact on the school one chooses to attend and how much the student can expect to pay out of pocket to attend a specific college or university.

According to Federal Student Aid, the cost of attendance (COA) is the amount it will cost you to attend a particular college for the year. The COA includes; tuition/fees, room and board, books, transportation, and other miscellaneous expenses.

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is extremely important. States and schools have a limited amount of aid they receive that is awarded to students. Completing the FAFSA early is essential, as it could make a difference in the amount of financial aid one might receive.

The forms of financial aid include scholarships, grants, work-study, and loans.

Once a student completes the FAFSA, the government will determine the amount the student will be responsible for contributing to his or her education. This is known as the Expected Family Contribution, or EFC, and is based on the family’s taxed/untaxed income, assets, benefits, family size, and the number of family members attending college.

Remember that once you as the student graduates or stops attending, six months later you will be required to start repayment of any loans you received. This is important because although parents provide their income information for the FAFSA, the student is responsible for repayment.

Below are some tips to guide you in financing your college education:

  1.  Complete the Early Aid Estimate form at https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa.
  2. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) (FREE IS THE KEY WORD).
  3. Work hard to get grades that will reward you with merit-based scholarships.
  4. Complete the FAFSA as soon as possible, the FAFSA can be completed starting October of your senior year.
  5. Apply for local and private scholarships. Check with your high school for school-specific scholarships and those from parents’ places of employment.
  6. Browse the prospective college website for the different scholarships.
  7. Work with the college/university financial aid advisors.
  8. Compare financial aid packages you receive from each school you apply to.

Avoid Thes Financial Aid Pitfalls:

  1. Avoid resources that ask you to pay to complete the FAFSA; the FAFSA is completely FREE to complete.
  2. Don’t give your PIN to anyone; they will gain access to all your personal information.
  3. Do not borrow more than you need; only borrow what you need to pay for your college education.

The financial aid process can seem daunting at first. However, utilizing resources at the college of interest can help in completing the process.

To find out more about programs through Extension Kenosha County and various opportunities, browse our website at https://kenosha.uwex.edu/youth-development/.