I worked my way through college. Having a part-time job and working a lot of hours wasn’t fun, especially during mid-terms, finals, and summer breaks. But, thankfully, I was able to graduate without any student loan.
But that was a long time ago.
If you are a recent college graduate, or have a child in college, I don’t need to remind you how expensive college is.
According to Education Data Initiative, the average cost of college tuition and fees at public 4-year institutions has risen 179.2% over the last 20 years for an average annual increase of 9.0%. For private 4-year institutions, the increase was 124.2% and 6.2% respectively.
To put this in perspective, in the 1999-2000 school year, the average annual tuition for 4-year institutions was $3,349. In today’s dollars, it’s $5,088, far cheaper than $9,349 today (2019-2020).
20 years before that was even better. For 1979-1980, the average tuition was $738. It’s 2,444 in today’s dollars. Yeah, it was very possible to work yourself through college back then.
And that’s only average. Some state schools cost a bit more. For example, the annual tuition for the University of Washington (Seattle) for the 2021-2022 school year was $12,076. If you live on or near the campus, the estimated total is $30,640. Yikes.
Is there any way to soften the blow to your wallet and keep the debt to a minimum? Let’s explore, shall we?
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
First, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) now. The application period for the 2022-23 school year began on October 1, 2021. Interestingly, the deadline is next year on June 30, 2023. But don’t wait because grants are awarded on a first-come first-served basis, and there isn’t an unlimited pot of money available. So earlier the better when completing the FAFSA application.
Since FAFSA uses last year’s tax returns, you can request an appeal if your situation has greatly shifted. Speak with the financial aid office and ask them to ‘reconsider’ based on your unique situation.
In addition to financial aid, you should also apply for scholarships. Instead of national scholarships, consider focusing on local scholarships because there is usually less competition.
According to Jan Smith of Educational Credit Management Corporation, “The absolute first place to visit for local scholarships is your school counselor’s office or the school’s website…. Many businesses want to help out students and will approach the school counselor for getting the word out about scholarships.”
Beyond financial aid and scholarships, there are schools – so-called ‘no-loan’ schools – that help students avoid student loans through scholarships, grants and work-study programs. Some colleges may assist all students, others look at family income and needs, or focus on in-state students.
I have a friend whose daughter got accepted to an elite private college. They were at once overjoyed and extremely stressed because its annual tuition is just shy of $60,000. But because the school is committed to having students pay no more than they would if they went to an in-state public school, she was able to graduate guilt-free without breaking the bank.
So, start saving early and look for money because, you know, student loan is no joke.
We do not provide legal or tax advice. You should consult their own legal or tax advisor. This information is intended for educational purposes, and it is not to be construed as an offer, solicitation, recommendation, or endorsement of any particular security, products, or services.
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