College is very expensive, there is no doubt about it. The average community college costs a little over $2,500 a year, which is substantially less than other institutions, but that’s just the cost of tuition. Add another $1,000 for books and you’re talking $7,000 over two years.
Starting out in a community college will definitely save you a significant amount of money, but no matter which direction you choose, you’ll want to consider every possible way to save on the cost of your education without missing out on this very important step. Do what you must, but don’t miss out on college. The opportunities college will afford you in the future will far outweigh its present cost.
Consider These Financial Options for College
Scholarships: There are several types of scholarships to be had if you have positioned yourself to take advantage of them. Many colleges offer both merit-based (academic, community, leadership) and athletic scholarships. You can also apply for scholarships through national organizations and contests.
Government Help: The government can help you with loans, federal financial aid, and state financial aid. There are also special grants, scholarships (including service-based), and programs offered through the government. Check out this Students.gov page for many government offerings.
Private Loans: Loans from banks are available to students as well, but be aware that they carry high interest rates.
Self-Help: Working through college to pay for it is an available option. Yes, it may interfere with the carefree life many associate with college, but college jobs can ease your financial burden and give you a head start with real world experience, especially if your work relates to your intended field. Upon graduation you’ll have a competitive edge over your peers. Even if you have a loan or scholarship, working can help provide money for the extras you’ll need at college. Remember, there’s more expense involved in college than just tuition.
Choose Carefully: You want to pick the right school, however weigh the costs of your favorite school with the benefit it will provide. Can you achieve your career goals by going to a less expensive school? If you intend to go to a four-year institution in-state, consider if your community college has articulation agreements with that school. You don’t have to pay the four-year price for four years to get the degree from the school you want. Get your basic courses out of the way, save money, and smoothly transition into the college experience by going to community college for the first two years.
Online Degrees: If you’re ultimately focused on achieving your degree and you’re willing to bypass the “college experience” an online degree can offer you an affordable avenue. Online degree costs vary and can still be expensive but they offer you the flexibility of choosing when you study and when you work. Working will allow you to pay for your education. Remember, online degrees aren’t “easy” degrees and you will need to be especially disciplined and motivated.
Research and Ask! Obviously all of these options take a commitment to research on your part. Make that commitment and you’ll achieve the best possible results. In addition, don’t be afraid to ask! For example, if you’re offered financial aid from a school you’d like to attend, you can follow up explaining how you desire to go to the school and offer reasons why you would be worthy of more financial aid. Explain that you may not be able to attend without receiving more aid.
Opportunity Awaits You
College is life-changing. The experiences you have through your college years, the knowledge you acquire, and the career opportunities a degree provides are valuable beyond the dollar signs. You’ll be proud of your achievements and become a more confident person. You’ll learn more about the world. You’ll struggle less in your pursuit of the lifestyle you wish to achieve. These are only some of the benefits a college degree offers. Getting your college degree without suffering financially is even better. Taking the time to research all of your options is time well spent.
Lynn Mattoon is a Content Editor & Career Writer for CollegeJobBank.com, a Beyond.com career community.
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