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Financing for College
7/4/2018 10:11:40 PM
Financing

College is not cheap. And in recent years, the cost of a college education has increased substantially, far outpacing the rate of inflation.

Of course, how much a student actually has to pay depends in part on which college he or she attends. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in the 2016-2017 academic year, the average total cost of college attendance (including tuition, fees, books, supplies, and room and board) for students living on campus ranged from $14,700 at public two-year institutions to $48,900 at private nonprofit four-year schools.

Figuring out how to pay those prices can be stressful, frustrating, and confusing. The good news is that many options are available to help you pay for college. And with a little research and planning, you can take advantage of those that make the most sense for you.

Save as much as you can. 
Though this one might seem obvious, it’s not always easy. A great option is to open a 529 plan, an investment account that is specifically designed to help people save money for college — for themselves or their children. Louisiana’s 529 plan is called the Student Tuition Assistance and Revenue Trust, or START, Saving Program, and it is administered by the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance. There are no fees to participate in the program, and earnings are exempt from state and federal taxes.

The earlier you can start saving the better. If you have a new baby at home, consider opening a 529 plan now. But even if your child is a teenager, it’s not too late to start saving.

Apply for grants and loans. 
Start with the federal government. Each year, Federal Student Aid, part of the U.S. Department of Education, helps millions of students pay for college. But in order to have access to these grants and loans, you must start by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, more commonly known as FAFSA, available at fafsa.ed.gov.

You may also want to consider applying for a private loan through a bank or other financial institution.

Apply for scholarships. 
Many scholarships are available; the key is knowing how to find them. College financial aid offices and high school guidance counselors are great places to start. Louisiana offers the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, or TOPS, which provides scholarships to students attending colleges within the state. Many local groups — think civic organizations, businesses, and religious organizations — offer scholarships to local students, and some professional associations and other national groups offer scholarships, as well. To help you see what’s out there, check out the U.S. Department of Labor’s  scholarship search tool. 

Apply to more than one school. 
One college might offer you a much better financial aid package than another. Don’t limit your options.
Finally, keep in mind that college — and paying for college — is different for everyone. Maybe that means living at home and attending a local school to eliminate the cost of room and board. Or perhaps it means taking longer to graduate because you have to work to afford tuition. If you know your options, you can make the most of them.
Posted by: Andrea Mongler | Submit comment | Tell a friend

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