The Best Ways to Pay for College

Depending on the type of college that you choose to invest in your future, you might pay $10,000 to more than $30,000 a year. Public colleges are more affordable because they get more funding from the government and charge less in tuition. The cheapest schools are community colleges that often charge less than $200 per credit hour and allow you to transfer those credits to a four-year school. While private colleges are the most expensive, they typically offer more financial aid for incoming students. You can look at the best ways to pay for college no matter what type you choose. 

Federal Loans 

The federal government offers both subsidized and unsubsidized loans. Subsidized loans freeze the interest charged on the money until six months after you either graduate or leave school. Unsubsidized loans go to graduate and other older students and have interest that builds up while they’re in school. To qualify for federal loans, you just need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) when you apply to college. This form also helps determine whether you qualify for other special loan programs from the government. 


Completing the FAFSA can help you qualify for a Pell grant and other grant programs. Many students refer to grants as free money because they do not need to pay back any of the money they get when they finish school. As an undergrad who just started college, you might get more than $5,000 in grants. Grants usually go to students who come from lower-income families and could not afford to attend college without financial help. When you use the FAFSA and answer each question correctly, you may qualify for more grants than your peers do. 

Private Student Loans 

Also called alternative student loans, private student loans can help you cover the balance between what you get from the FAFSA and what you owe for the school year. These loans have varying interest rates and determine those rates based on the applicant’s credit score and history. To get a lower rate, you can apply with a cosigner. Private student loans allow borrowers to make payments while they’re in school or wait until they graduate before paying off their loans. You’ll find alternative student loans available from many different lenders. With both federal and private student loans, grants and work-study, you can cover all of the costs of attending college. 


Many students from lower-income families qualify for the federal work-study program too. This allows you to work for the college or university and make an hourly wage. Though most schools pay students the federal minimum wage rate, some jobs may pay students more. Most of the positions are available on-campus to make it easy for students who live in dorms to get to their jobs. Depending on your school, you might have access to a job database that lets you view available openings and apply for positions before the semester starts. Some schools have positions that let students work off-campus too. You’ll find jobs that include working in the cafeteria or library as well as positions as dorm and resident advisors.