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When Cost Matters—Find Financial Aid

How to Access College Money

Ironically, for the price of a so-called degree from some diploma mills—between $1000 and $5000—you could have a real college degree. Over the last decade or so, money for college has become available from all types of sources.

The College Price Tag

Colleges come in a variety of shapes and sizes and so do the tuition costs. Static does not describe the cost of any college tuition; they have been heading up for years. Private, four-year colleges top the list of pricey. The average cost for these high-end digs is $22,000. Public universities are right around $6,000 and two-year colleges average $2,200.1 Focus on other aspects of college as opposed to costs. Tuition is a variable, but factors such as curriculum, location, and size of student body are more unchangeable.

Federal Aid

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the key to accessing federal funds. It is also a necessity for many state programs and for some scholarships, so it must not be overlooked. Students must explore federal student loans before any others. The FAFSA is a controversially lengthy and convoluted document, but it’s also a collegiate rite of passage. There are plenty of resources for assistance with the FAFSA. The website offers tips for filling out the form, student loan providers make the rounds of high school campuses to assist students each year, and increasingly popular rallies like College Goal Sunday provide a nationwide effort to get kids and parents on board with the confusing process.

Federal Student Loans Include:

State Aid

Students can access the same federal loans above through state agencies and partner lenders. Outside the direct federal system, the student loans are collectively known as the Federal Family Education Loans.

Private Student Loans

Most students’ federal student loan awards fall very short of the tuition cost. Enter private student loan lenders with their own brand of student loans. Alternative student loans are credit-based, but also provide high credit limits and long-term payment terms. Some of the leading private student loan lenders include Sallie Mae and Nelnet. Banking institutions like Bank of America and Chase have expanded their products to offer loans for students.


Scholarships really do come in all shapes and sizes. You’ve likely heard there’s a scholarship for everyone; believe it. There are millions of dollars in scholarships. The Internet is an excellent tool to shop for funds. Be patient, diligent, and organized.

Above all else, do not overlook deadlines for scholarships. And remember, many scholarships require you to have completed the FAFSA, which comes with its own hard deadline. The biggest error students make when filling out scholarship applications is ignoring the directions on the application. Always provide fresh letters of recommendation and original essays. Some sources for reliable scholarships include:

Financial excuses are not a sufficient argument opposing a real college education. With an array of financial aid and scholarships available, it’s absolutely possible that you could have almost all of your college tuition funded.


  1. 2006-07 College Costs, College Board, http://www.collegeboard.com/student/pay/add-it-up/4494.html.

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