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How to Pay for College

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Ways to Finance Your Education

Figuring out how to pay for college can be a stressful challenge. Most people need some type of financial aid in order to pay for college expenses. Several types of financial aid are available, and each is different in how it is awarded and how or whether or not it must be paid back.

  • Grants are a form of gift aid or "free money," which means they do not need to be paid back. Thus, grants represent an ideal form of financial aid. Grants are awarded based primarily on financial need, but may also be based on merit. The largest grant program is the Federal Pell Grant. Other federal, state and college grant programs are also available for qualifying students. To be eligible for these grants, you must complete a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).
  • Scholarships are another form of gift aid, which are often awarded for achievement in academics, leadership, arts, or athletics, and may also be based on financial need. Scholarships may come from private donors, businesses, organizations or from the colleges. Searching online is a great place to start to find scholarship opportunities.
  • Student Loans are a type of financial aid that must be repaid. They are available in two main forms, federal government loans and private loans, and may be secured by both students and parents. Federal loans generally have lower interest rates and more repayment options than private loans, but some communities offer student loan programs at reduced interest rates or interest free, so it pays to research various opportunities to secure student loans.
  • Work-Study, also based on financial need, allows students to earn money while attending college through a variety of campus jobs. Students are paid an hourly wage and may earn up to an amount specified as part of their financial aid award package.
  • Military Funding through organizations such as ROTC or the National Guard may pay part or all of a student's tuition and college expenses. Students should contact local recruiters for information.
Additional ways to fund your college education include the following:
  • Cooperative Education - Students may earn money for college and college credit through a combined program in which they work as they attend school.
  • Part-time Employment - On-campus or off-campus jobs can often be tailored around students' class and study schedules.
  • Tuition Payment Plans - Many colleges allow students to pay their tuition in installments rather than all at once.
  • Prepaid Tuition Plans - Some states offer prepaid tuition plans to qualified residents. The Ohio Tuition Trust Authority offers the CollegeAdvantage 529 Savings Plan.
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