How To Beat The High Cost Of College

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College tuition costs continue to rise, outstripping the rate of inflation year in and year out. Add in room and board, fees, books, labs and related expenses and the annual cost of a private school education can easily top $30,000 even pushing up closer to $50,000 at select elite schools, far college studentbeyond what most families can afford.

The good news is that just like buying a car, the listed price isn’t what you’ll end up paying, particularly if you cannot afford the school. As automakers discount their products, most schools do the same even if they have many more applicants to choose from should you decide to go elsewhere.

But, before you decide to throw up your hands in disgust and consider Plan B, make sure that Plan A has been exhausted. Specifically, you’ll want to do the following:

Fill Out Your FAFSA – The Free Application For Student Aid (FAFSA) form should be filled out by all prospective and current college students to determine whether you’re eligible for student aid. This form is sent to the federal government which issues a Student Aid Report (SAR) which is sent to your college. The SAR will have your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) featured, an amount that can be much smaller than what the going rate is for college.

Get Merit Aid – Families who have too much money to qualify for student aid can still get assistance especially if your student is a high achiever and has a promising academic track record. Top grades means you have much academic potential – some schools recognize ability as an important reason to extend assistance.

Grants, Not Loans – When seeking assistance, you’ll want to get as much grant money as possible (which doesn’t have to be repaid) instead of relying upon loans (which can strap your student down financially for many years). Some colleges and universities are no-loan schools who offer grants to eligible families. This list includes select elite schools including most Ivy schools and private institutions such as Swarthmore and Amherst.

Think Diversity – If you are of an ethnic minority or of an under represented gender, you may find that you could be eligible for aid (or a better aid package) simply for being who you are. Colleges value diversity and will do whatever it takes to populate their student body with as diverse a group of people as possible.

Instead of worrying about how you will pay for college, consider the many ways you can get lop off thousands from the sticker price. Don’t forget to apply for scholarships which can be another way to get the money you need to pay for your education – more than seven billion dollars of college scholarship money is made available each year: get your share and reap the educational rewards!

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