How to pay for college
For students, the decision of which college to attend usually centers around class offerings, where their friends are going and how the "extra-curricular" activities are on campus. For the parents of these students, the only real question is "How will we pay for this?"
With the ever rising cost of tuition and the decreasing availability of free-flowing loans in all sectors, its a legitimate concern with a huge impact on where and how students will attend a college or university. Not all of us are star athletes or the next concert pianist with full ride scholarships.
To borrow or not to borrow?
For most parents or students this question is easily answered. Many Americans cannot afford to pay a semester's tuition in one lump sum - and those that can quickly find that tuition isn't the only major expense. Books, housing, meals, computers and supplies add up to a significant sum almost equal to the tuition itself. So for most people the answer lies in applying for loans for college. Like most other loans these are looked to as investments in the future; in this case as an investment in the future of a student.
Some Best Practices
1) Do The Research: Like your dad told you and his father before him, you don't buy the first car you look at. The same is true when shopping around for ways to pay for college. While the financial aid office is a great place to start, these offices don't always have access to or information on the most competitive options out there. Numerous online resources offer great alternative ways to pay for college.
2) Keep Alternates in Mind: Decades ago employers often judged candidates on which college or university their degree originated from. This is becoming less and less the case as community colleges and technical schools become increasingly competitive while offering discounted tuition compared to traditional universities. Far too many students and parents put too much stock into which school to attend rather than the quality of education they need in order to jump-start a prosperous career. The National Center for Education Statistics collects and analyses data related to education including college financing and can help in your search.
3) Find A Co-Signer: For student or parents with bad credit, finding a co-signer is always a good idea. This can result in lowered interest rates, making your loan easier to pay off and cheaper in the long term.
4) Understand Your Loans for College: Make sure to thoroughly read and understand all terms and conditions surrounding your financing. What are the terms of the interest rate? How does your lender handle principal payments? Gather any questions you have beforehand so that you are prepared to get answers when the time comes.
Make the Most of It
In the end, the best way to pay for college is to study hard and leave with a degree in hand. Remember the reasoning behind taking on debt in order to pay for college. This is a play to secure a more financially sound future. Attending college is a unique and gratifying experience. It is also a privilege that should not be taken lightly.