Parents Can’t Help? How to Pay for College

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One thing you can always count on is the cost of college and university tuition increases. Forbes actually found that tuition costs are growing “eight times faster than wages.” That’s a very sobering piece of information for anyone facing tuition payments, especially for those who want a college degree to increase their earning power because they’re having trouble making ends meet as it is.

While movies and tv talk about parents paying or helping to pay the costs of college tuition for their kids, for a majority of people that’s just not the case. It’s estimated that only 22%-35% of students receive tuition help from their parents. Everyone else is on their own. So how can you find a way to pay for school if help from your family isn’t an option?

1 – Fill out the FAFSA.

This is the first step to federal financial aid. Federal financial aid is best because it can mean grants and low interest loans. Federal loans are particularly attractive for students because they not only offer very good interest rates, but also come with important benefits like loan deferment if you have times of financial crisis later in life.

If you are under the age of 24, however, you are required to submit your parents’ financial information along with your own, which may mean that the government will expect your family to make a contribution they’re not willing or able to make. That’s why taking the next step is very important.

2 – Apply to the colleges and universities you would like to attend.

It may seem counterintuitive to apply for school when you’re not sure how you’re going to pay for it, but the truth is you won’t actually know how much you’ll be expected to pay until you receive your financial aid reward letter from the college itself. Once you receive your reward letter and the amount you’re expected to pay is too high, don’t just give up because you can’t pay—reach out to the financial aid office and tell them your specific circumstances and ask what you can do to get more aid.

Whether you’re going the traditional student route, or intend to pursue a degree online, any school you apply to will have a financial aid department. These are dedicated professionals who know exactly how to get you the financial aid help you need—it’s their job. Be very open and honest with the financial aid office, and if you will be unable to attend the school without more financial aid, be sure to say so and keep asking for more help.

3 – Check with your employer.

Many large companies and national retailers and food chains have college tuition programs for employees. Not all of them advertise those programs. Be sure to speak to your boss or manager and ask what tuition help might be available through your company. You may be surprised.