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You and Your Money

PERSONAL FINANCE: Nine Ways You Can Afford College

If you are planning to attend college in the near future, the recent national recession has made the task of paying for a college education even more daunting.  One or more of your parents may have been laid off from a job and dipped into savings intended for college. Parents of students attending college or prospective college students have every right to be concerned. But you should also know that even with dire economic news, there are lots of ways to afford a college education.

Have a frank discussion as a family about what you can afford before you begin to search for colleges. Here are several alternatives:

1. You may have to start at a community or junior college. In many states, you can get two years of college at the local level with smaller classes and save on the cost of going away to college.  Just check to make sure your credits transfer to a four-year college.

2. High school students can also take Advanced Placement (AP) courses in high school that often translate to college credit, that’s a big savings right off the bat.

3. Today’s G.I. Bill is an excellent way to pay for a college education and you gain practical experience along the way.

4. Before you decide you can’t afford college, calculate what you can afford on www.fafsa4caster.ed.gov and start searching for scholarships, grants, and loans at free web sites.

5.  Do everything you can to maximize financial aid, you may be able to get more than you think. College students received more than $143 billion in financial aid, including grants, loans, work-study programs, and tax credits.

6.  If you need help to pay for college, federal loans are an attractive alternative to private student loans. While the credit crunch is limiting the availability of private loans, the access to federal loans is not affected by the economic downturn.

7.  If there is a college nearby, start there and stay at home to reduce your expenses for room and board.

8. Consider working part-time or even going to college part-time, while working full time.  It will take longer, but the value of a college education means you will make more money in your life time.

9. Finally, consider taking college courses online.  While this may not be inexpensive, you can continue to work while to study and get many of the basic courses out of the way.  You can complete a degree online
or transfer credits to a four year college.

With each day seemingly bringing more bad news on the economic front, it’s important to remember that the dream of a college education doesn’t have to be delayed or set aside altogether. Help is out there for students and their families.