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Affording College

College tuition is ridiculously expensive. A few decades ago, “working your way through college” meant that a student could work to support herself as well as pay tuition. Now, it usually just means that the student is working to pay basic living expenses. College tuition isn’t something that can be earned during the summer anymore. In fact, the average yearly college tuition at a state school is almost six thousand dollars per year (not including books or rooming costs) and at a private school it is over thirty thousand dollars per year – more than many family’s entire yearly income!

College is so expensive, that many high school graduates won’t be able to attend. Many families don’t have the resources to pay for their children’s tuition and since students can’t usually pay from their own earnings, many just opt to not attend at all. This is a sad story since it has been estimated that a person with only high school diplomas will earn a million dollars less over a lifetime than a person with a college degree. A million dollars! Yikes!

But there are options! As mentioned above, certain schools are less expensive than others. State schools don’t have the prestige of many private schools, but their curriculums, professors, and opportunities are often very good anyway. And since, on average, the tuition is five times less than a private school and yet a student can earn the very same degree, it is definitely worth looking into.

Another less expensive college is the community college. Averaging around four to five thousand dollars per year in tuition, these schools sometimes get a bad name as being lower quality. Community colleges are even less expensive than many state schools because they are often smaller and only offer two year degrees and so don’t have to pay PhD level professors. This doesn’t mean that they are always extremely low quality. Often, instructors will be PhD level and will teach at community colleges to supplement their income while they are also teaching at more expensive universities so essentially the community college student is receiving the exact same education as the student paying a much higher tuition.

Many students can start at community college and end up in Ivy League schools to finish their education through special transfer programs where the student finishes the basic required classes for the first two years and then transfers to a university for the last two years to specialize in their degree. Besides lower tuition, community colleges also offer special programs for high school students in the form of “running start” programs where high school students can start taking college classes as young at fifteen or sixteen. Community colleges are also very good at offering alternative scheduling options such as evening and weekend classes to accommodate working students. This can be handy, especially if you are low on cash and need to work.

And while they are less expensive, community colleges and state schools often also offer dorms, cafeteria plans, sports, student groups, and many other things that you would expect at a private college.
The important thing to remember is to research the school you are thinking of attending.

Another option to help defray college costs is financial aid. The government in the United States offers many financial aid options for low income and middle income students. In order to access these options, though, you need to fill out a FAFSA which can be found online, your high school counselor, or most college admission offices. Financial aid can come in the form of a grant (which doesn’t need to be repaid), a scholarship (which is usually awarded for some sort of special achievement), or a loan (which will have to be repaid – usually six months after you graduate).

So, the bottom line is, if you think that you won’t be able to pay for college, think again. There are many options out there to help you access that extra million dollars over your lifetime. Ask your high school counselor for addition information.

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