Figuring out how to pay for college is something that millions of Americans worry about every year. The dream of attending college is becoming more and more difficult for average Americans as education costs have skyrocketed in the past few decades, but it's important to know there are a slew of grants, loans, and other resources available for Americans of every socioeconomic background. From grants that are provided by the federal and state government to federally subsidized loans, there are plenty of ways for average Americans to help pay for an undergraduate college education.
The most common way to pay for college is through federally guaranteed student loans. The student loan program consists of a variety of federally guaranteed student loans designed to assist you in paying for your education expenses. The most common type of loan is the unsubsidized Stafford Loan. You are responsible for the interest of the loan from the start of the loan, but there are options to defer interest until you finish your schooling. Please be aware that interest will be accruing during the entirety of the loan period.
For those who qualify, there is also a subsidized Stafford Loan. The government pays the interest of this loan and eligible students are only required to pay back the loan amount. Eligibility for subsidized loans is determined by the borrowers income.
Lesser known loans are the PLUS and Pekins loans. PLUS loans can be taken out by graduate students or parents of undergraduate students. Borrowers must not have an adverse credit history and must meet other terms in order to be eligible for the loan. Perkins loans are available for students who meet a certain financial need, but not every school participates in the loan program. You would need to speak with your admissions adviser to see if your school participates in the Perkins loan program.
Grants are money a student does not have to pay back. The most common grant is the Federal Pell Grant. This is a needs based grant given to middle and low income students to help them pay for a portion of their education costs.
There are also grants available for the children of veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan or died in the terror attacks of 9/11, but this grant is only awarded if the student does not meet the financial requirements of the Federal Pell Grant.
Many states have their own grants they provide to middle and low income students who choose to stay in their home state to attend school. Requirements vary by state, so you would need to speak with your admissions adviser to see if you are eligible for any state based grants.
Scholarships and Work Study
Scholarships aren't just for star athletes. Most colleges offer a variety of scholarships that can help reduce the amount of money you owe for your education. Each one is different, so it is important to understand which scholarships you are applying for and whether you are eligible to apply for them. The Department of Education has a website devoted to helping you search for the various scholarships available in your state and at your specific university, which you can access HERE
The Federal Work Study program is also another way to help students pay for their college expenses. Qualifying students can earn money by working either on or off campus of participating schools.
Every college aged student will need to fill out the Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year in order to determine their eligibility for certain loans or grants. There is a deadline to file your FAFSA and they vary by state. You can see what that deadline is by visiting the FAFSA deadline page.