There is no doubt that getting a degree from an institution of higher education is expensive. It seems that every year tuition bills are getting bigger, so it comes as no surprise that student debt as a whole has recently exceeded one trillion dollars.
However, don't let that scare you from getting a college education. If you're headed back to school or attending for the very first time this fall, chances are you'll need help financing your education. Here are four key steps to reducing your tuition bill:
1: Apply for Federal Student Aid
Don't know where to start paying for college? Start with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, otherwise known as FAFSA. The office of Federal Student Aid provides grants, loans, and work-study funds for colleges and career schools. More than $150 billion each year goes to FAFSA applicants to help millions of students pay for higher education.
- My tip: apply as early as possible. You can begin applying for FAFSA on Jan. 1 of every year. So the trick here is planning ahead. Going to school next fall? Apply for financial aid this winter.
2: Apply for scholarships
There are so many scholarships out there for every type of student. Whether it's need based or a scholarship based on academic merit, there are loads of opportunities to get free money. Usually there is some work involved, like an essay and an application. But if a few essays could earn you a few hundred dollars, it's totally worth it.
Start your process by looking on FameMaine.com for Maine based scholarship opportunities. Other resources for finding scholarships include:
- Your high school guidance office
- College financial aid office
- Your employer
- Your parent's employer
- Faith-based institutions
- Local civic organizations
- Town office
- Local library
3: Find a part time job
Being a student takes a lot of time, dedication, and hard work. If you've never held a job while school is in session, it's time to start. Trust me. What might seem like the impossible is actually quite manageable. Most employers in college towns understand that students have academic priorities. Your job certainly doesn't have to be related to your field of study, it's solely for the income. So check the local newspapers, online ads, and be sure to check out student employment opportunities through your campus.
4: Consider a loan
Wether you accept a loan through FAFSA or get a private loan through a credit union, just know the details before you sign on the dotted line. That could mean sitting down with a staff member from the financial aid office at your college campus or talking to a loan officer at your local credit union.
Here are a few questions to ask before borrowing money:
- Is there a minimum amount I have to borrow?
- Are interest payments required while I’m in school?
- What is the interest rate and is it fixed?
- What are the repayment terms?
Remember when it comes to lending money, only borrow what you need or what you think you can pay back. You may qualify to borrow a high amount, but remember that the money has to be paid back.