How to Pay for College Without Breaking the Bank

pay for college

The average cost of college in the US is $9,970. For private and out-of-state schools, it’s even higher. Accommodation on campus is an extra $10K per year.

Don’t let the numbers get to you.

Your career aspirations and educational goals are achievable. With some creativity and resourcefulness, they’re affordable, too.

You can totally find the money to pay for college. There are tons of options ranging from loans to grants. Keep reading to learn all your options for funding your degree.

1. Choose an Affordable School

The cost of tuition varies depending on the type of school you attend. Community colleges are much cheaper than state and private schools.

Unfortunately, many people look down on community colleges.

You should know that in most fields, employers don’t care where you graduate from. Only that you did graduate and know your stuff. In fact, many careers today care more about experience than higher education.

Alas, the name still matters to many students.

To save money, consider doing the first half of your degree at a community college. Use that time to live at home and save money. Then, finish your degree at the more affordable name and receive your degree.

2. Apply for Scholarships and Grants

Scholarships and grants are an underutilized feature of the financial aid system. For exceptional grades or backgrounds, you can receive funding for school.

The money awarded in a scholarship comes from a variety of sources. Special interest groups and charities sponsor scholarships that relate to their values.

Some scholarships target students in an academic field, like English or business. Others focus on leadership skills or community involvement. The constant factor is that scholarships get awarded based on merit.


Grants are different from scholarships in that they usually come from the government. They’re given to students with eligible backgrounds or specific needs.

For example, there are grants for students who are the first in their family to go to college. Or, students who are first-generation immigrants. Some grants are for students with learning disabilities or special needs.

Every student is likely eligible for at least one grant or scholarship. You just have to do your research and take the extra step of applying.

4. Get a Part-time Job

You may be thinking, “how am I supposed to work while studying full-time?” That’s a valid concern; the life of a student is undoubtedly stressful.

But, working alongside your education doesn’t have to be stressful. You just need to get organized and be clear with your priorities. Learning better money habits now will impact you for life.

Instead of going to parties every weekend, head to your part-time job. If you can choose your schedule, pick classes in the mornings and work in the afternoon. Pick up other employees shifts whenever you can.

Of course, your education is your number one priority during this time. If you know you need a week straight to study for midterms, let your job know in advance. Work on your time management and organizational skills.

Working part-time and creating passive income streams are great ways to lower the cost of your education.

5. Save with a 529 Plan

Long before you pack your bags for college, you should be saving. 529 plans are the most popular saving funds for families whose children want to go to college.

Parents who start saving with the 529 when their child is ten can save a lot of money by the time college rolls around. With this saving plan, time is on your side and it’s better to start early.

The money saved in a 529 plan gets invested in the stock market. For this reason, it’s best not to depend on your 529 for your entire school savings. But, it makes an excellent supplementary fund.

6. Get a Loan

If you’re looking into different loans for college, you’re not alone. Over 70 percent of college students rely on loans to pay for their education.

It’s crucial you do your research to find the best type of loan for your situation. You want the lowest interest rates possible with ample time to pay it back.

Federal Loans

Every student who needs a loan for college fills out the FAFSA form. FAFSA, Free Application for Federal Aid, determines how much and if you’re eligible.

This application is also required to receive grants and other types of loans. The interest rate for 2018-2019 undergraduate federal loans is 5.05 percent.

Private Loans

Federal loans don’t always cover your entire tuition or bills for college. In these cases, students can opt for private loans to fill in the gap.

Private loans come from a private lender who sets their own criteria and interest rates. For this reason, it’s crucial you shop around and do your due diligence.

Also, be aware you may need a cosigner if your personal credit can’t stand alone. You can learn more about loan eligibility by speaking to a financial adviser.

7. Think Hard and Research

Before you commit to paying for college, do some critical thinking. Would you be in a better financial situation if you worked full-time for a year before college?

Does your career path require a college degree? More and more careers are ignoring school credentials in favor of real-world experience. Conduct a few informational interviews with people in your field.

Do you need to complete a four-year degree? Or would a two-year diploma garner the same opportunities?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, do some research. You need to commit to your educational path before committing to paying that much money.

Do You Know How You’re Going to Pay for College?

No one’s arguing with the numbers: going to college is expensive. And, the cost only seems to be going up. That’s why it’s so important you find a strategic way to pay for college.

Whether you choose to work a part-time job or get a loan, it’s possible to find the money for your education. The trick is saving money when you can and being resourceful.

For more information on going to college and saving money as a student, check out our Inspiration and Motivation Blog.