College tuition accounts for the largest proportion of the costs involved in acquiring a degree and can vary widely between colleges. Many colleges have two tiers of tuition fees: one for instate students and one for out of state students. Thus choosing an instate college can considerable reduce the tuition costs.
One aspect of tuition costs which is too often overlooked is that some colleges provide financial aid packages which cover the full costs of even the most expensive tuition, effectively making the most expensive colleges the least expensive to attend. Naturally academic excellence is required alongside determined financial need.
Ivy League schools such as Princeton, Harvard and Yale offer excellent financial aid packages and certain colleges promise that student loans will be unnecessary. Other colleges provide financial aid to all students whose family income is less than $100,000, with three quarters of all students attending Emory University in Atlanta receiving financial aid. Lafayette College in Pennsylvania also provides financial aid to all students with family incomes less than $100,000, and in addition puts a cap on the amount of student loans.
It is thus important that students and their families take their time to do their homework and research financial aid provided directly from the colleges. Presuming you will not qualify for financial aid is a huge mistake as many colleges provide assistance even if income levels are high, if there are other siblings also requiring a college education.
Financial aid is usually determined by completing the FAFSA application which determines the family contribution. Many colleges provide direct aid to cover the difference between tuition fees and the family contribution.
In addition to college financial aid students should seek out both scholarships and state grants which can be utilized to pay for tuition. Some colleges have dropped all merit scholarships, preferring to offer aid to those with demonstrated financial need, but many retain merit scholarships which are also available from outside sources.
All students who submit the FAFSA are automatically considered for the federal Pell grant which is awarded on a needs base to those from low income families. Students can also apply for low interest federal state loans through the FAFSA, but may consider exploring the option of interest free loans first which reduce the debt burden on graduation. Some States offer interest free loans as do private foundations.
Federal student loans should always be utilized before private student loans. The amount awarded is determined by the family contribution. Private student loans should only be utilized as a last resort.
Determining eligibility for financial aid can be difficult but all colleges which receive federal funding will be required to provide a net price calculator online from October 2011. These can already be found on some college websites and can make the costs of calculating financing tuition much more transparent.
Another option for obtaining free tuition is to consider one of the number of colleges which offer free tuition in return for the whole student body working throughout their college years. As an example the very popular College of the Ozarks in Missouri requires all students to work in college placed jobs in return for free tuition.
Although college tuition carries a hefty price tag, those students and their families who research their eligibility for college financial aid packages early, have an excellent opportunity of finding affordable choices. Automatically presuming that loans are the only option to pay for tuition can be a costly financial mistake which could be avoided by researching individual college’s financial aid packages.