Over the years, college education has become synonymous with success, especially in today’s economic landscape. According to the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, Center on Education and the Workforce, the United States population is more educated than ever. Among the total workers in the year 1973, only 28% held a postsecondary education. This fails in comparison to 59% of jobs held by college graduates in 2010. In just 35 years, college-educated workers comprise more than half of the American workforce.
By 2020, there will be 55 million job openings in the economy. With this job growth, the demand for postsecondary education graduates and those with training beyond high school will increase. Data consistently predict that 65% of jobs will require an academic degree higher than a high school diploma.
College is expensive. There is no denying that the quest for higher education is not an uneasy feat. It requires a significant amount of investment and a strong sense of commitment. Plus, studying in the United States is expensive. Regardless of this fact, the U.S. remains one of the top destinations for international students.
U.S. Education System
Levels of College
Types of Higher Education in the U.S.
College Cost Today
Categories of College Expenses
Tuition Trends and Challenges
The Dropout Rate Consequence
Tuition Increase Trend
Colleges Offering the Most Expensive Degrees
Colleges Offering the Most Affordable Degrees
Ways to Afford College
College is Still Worth It!
U.S. Education System
The United States boasts its unique education system. Compared to other countries, the U.S. has a highly decentralized system of education. Academic institutions in the country enjoy its independence from the federal government. The Tenth Amendment expresses that the federal government has not been explicitly delegated the power to control academic institutions in the country. Therefore, this power is reserved to the States, the local authorities, academic institutions, as well as the people.
The federal government does not have jurisdiction or authority over education in the country. Yes, it plays a vital part in ensuring the accessibility of education for all. Most importantly, the central government does establish accrediting agencies, nor award licenses to schools or educational institutions at all levels. There is no national school system that regulates all schools. To this day, there is no education framework law on the national scale that prescribes academic curricula or manner of instruction. Both public and private institutions can adopt a targeted academic curriculum in every area of study. Institutions can freely affiliate in secular or religious organizations, and organize various departments within the school system.
Primarily, the U.S. federal government is leading the effort in promoting educational policies, especially national policy reforms. The national government, through the Department of Education, administers federal assistance programs and ensures their proper appropriation. Most importantly, it aims to protect every student’s civil rights to education.
Levels of College
The country offers a diverse selection of degree programs at every academic level. You need to acquaint yourself with the American education system. Knowing how the system is built and what each academic level will bring to your academic development is crucial in expanding your education plan. We are providing you with the necessary information concerning the three levels of higher education in America.
The first level of higher education in the U.S. which pertains to earning a Bachelor’s degree from a college or university. Typically, an undergraduate degree takes four years to complete depending on the amount of coursework you take per semester. According to the data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), during the fall semester in the 2017 academic year, there were 16.8 million students who enrolled in postsecondary institutions across the country. This is significantly higher compared to the 13.2 million enrollees in 2000, which translates to a 27% increase. While during the fall semester in 2018, the number of enrollees was projected at 19.9% or 15.3 million students. The overall enrollment rate is expected to increase between the fall semester of academic years 2018 and 2027 to 20.5 million. These projections proved accurate when the enrollment rate in fall 2020 reached a total of 20.01 million collegiate students enrolled in degree-granting institutions.
Degree-granting institutions are academic institutions that offer postsecondary degrees. This may include an associate’s, undergraduate, and graduate programs. An essential aspect of these institutions is there active participation in federal financial aid programs.
Earning your bachelor’s degree from a four-year college is the ideal academic path. However, you may choose to start in a community college. You can take a few classes which can be credited towards earning a college degree.
An overview of your college coursework will reveal that the first two years are dedicated to studying general education courses. These are prerequisite classes that will tackle Science, Literature, Social Science, Arts, and History, among others. These subjects will provide you with foundational knowledge that would prove useful as you decide on a major. Students in community colleges usually earn an Associate of Arts (AA) degree after two years of general education classes.
When you reach your third year, you need to choose your major. The last two years of college will mostly focus on courses customized to give you the expertise in your chosen field. You can major in Accountancy, Business, Biology, Communications, Education, Engineering, Human Resources, Finance, or Political Science. Colleges and universities in the U.S. have an extensive list of degrees and majors offering you with the flexibility you need. More so, you can change your major as much as you want as you go along. This is another characteristic that makes American higher education system unique. In 2018, NCES reported that 80% of college students had changed significantly at least once. This shift may be due to changing interest or discovering new fields where you can excel and be passionate about.
Graduate Level: Master’s Degree
After completing your college degree, you can proceed to graduate study to advance your professional career. Having a graduate degree will qualify you to higher level positions in your chosen field. Most universities in the United States have a dedicated graduate studies department. Master’s programs require a particular set of requirements, which may include an LSAT, GRE, GMAT, or MCAT. Graduate programs usually take two years to complete, mainly focusing on research and thesis.
Graduate Level: Doctorate Degree
Earning your Master’s degree will open various career opportunities, as well as the qualification to pursue a Doctorate or a Ph.D. However, there are schools which customize an academic plan where you can earn a doctorate without a master’s degree. This particular track will require at least three years of study. It may take up to 5 to 6 years for international students to complete. One year will be dedicated to hands-on research towards achieving a dissertation.
Types of Higher Education in the U.S.
State College or University
A state college or university is an academic institution under the support and supervision of the state or local government. In all of the 50 U.S. states, there is at least one state university operating under state support. In addition to this, several state colleges cater to local students all over the country.
Private College or University
There are several private colleges and universities in the United States. These institutions are privately owned and run. Incidentally, tuition is usually higher than a state university. Moreover, private academic institutions maintain generally smaller class sizes and campuses. Religiously affiliated degree-granting institutions are private schools because the nation upholds freedom of religion.
Spread across the 50 states are more than 1,000 junior or community colleges. These schools are typically operated by the state university in a given district. Community colleges are under the strict supervision of a state agency. These two-year degree-granting schools award Associate’s degrees that are transferable to a four-year bachelor’s degree. You can also earn certifications or course credits while enrolled in a community college.
Institute of Technology
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics or STEM is the top degree choice among American college students. Most institutes of technology offer four-year degree courses, while some provide short-term degrees or training.
Decentralized education system means no subsidy from the federal government. This is the main reason why college education in the United States is expensive. Even for American college students, getting an undergraduate degree is a daunting reality. Student loan debt has become a crisis. In the year 2020 and the U.S. alone, student debt has ballooned to $1.56 trillion. This amount will come from the 44 million Americans and international students who availed one of the many federal student loan programs. As a result, student loan debt places second among the highest consumer debt category. Surprisingly, it is higher than credit card and car loans.
The Federal Reserve estimates that more than 50% of young adults who enrolled in college in 2018 took on debt. Among the enrollees in the same year, 69% of students took out a loan to finance their education, eventually graduating with an average outstanding debt of $29,800. While in 2017, graduates of four-year college have a cumulative debt balance of $26,900. Those who graduated from private nonprofit four-year college have an aggregate debt balance of $32,600.
Students should take these statistics into account before deciding to enroll in any two- or four-year schools in the United States. When pursuing the standard of “American higher education, you must be aware of the cost it entails. As of 2005-2006, college education in a four-year institution costs $17,451 while $7,236 in a two-year college. This changed over the academic year 2015-2016 seeing as it increased to $26,120 and $10,432, respectively. Costs shown here includes tuition, other fees, room, and board. These estimates can be broken down to the average education cost at public institutions and private institutions.
In the academic year 2005-2006, education in public institutions costs an average of $10,454 while $26,908 in private, nonprofit institutions. Between 2005-2006 and 2015-2016, there was an increase of 34% in prices for undergraduate tuition and other fees amounting to an average cost of $16,757. This increase took place within a ten-year period. On the other hand, undergraduate tuition in private schools rose by 26%, arriving at an average cost of $39,011 per year.
College Cost Today
Today, there is a debate on the causal relationship between accumulating debts in the form of student loans while earning a higher education. College education costs average $34,000 per year. This amount accounts for tuition and other fees in a private academic institution. In concept, an educational loan is the most viable way of affording higher education in the country.
If you are to compare the cost of college education to that of your parents from two decades ago, the difference would be very high. According to U.S. News data, the average tuition and fees at a private university increased by 168% since the late 1990s. There is a shocking increase of 200% in the average out-of-state tuition and fees even in-state college and universities. On the other hand, in-state tuition has seen a 243% increase for public national universities. The rising cost for a college education does not include those increase implemented by community colleges and other universities.
A research by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reveals that state and federal spending on public academic institutions remains at a historic low. This data is consistent with the research conducted for the academic year 2007-2008. As a result of these budget cuts, national universities resolve to tuition fee hikes. This comes with the fact that State schools having more leeway to increase cost compared to private schools. It has become more difficult to find a bargain price for both public and private academic institutions. Students now decide their college selection based on the cost, and not necessarily on merit.
In 2017 EAB, a best practices firm conducted a survey which analyzed the deposit activity of the 54,810 students. The subjects were accepted to the 2016 class at one of EAB’s partner schools. Among those who were surveyed, 11% or over 6,000 students did not register to their first-choice school. Moreover, 40% declined admission to their dream school. Most students admitted to having been overwhelmed with the cost of attendance. Students tend to shy away from committing to their first or top choice school because of cost. This is despite the efforts to promote financial aid, as well as merit-based scholarship programs.
An interesting analysis surfaced from the survey as 40% of students who have done well in the SAT decided to forego their first-choice schools. These students scored higher than 1200 in the SAT. Interestingly, those who got a score below 1200 also gave up their first-choice college. They made up 39% of the total of 54,810 students.
Taking race and financial status into account, among the surveyed students, 43% of those belonging to the minority group also declined admission to their preferred institution. This is also true among 39% of non-minority students. And even 40% of students belonging to high-income families also cited financial reasons for declining their top-choice college.
Why is this so?
Simple. It is because of money.
Affordability is important. That is a given factor among students and their parents as they navigate the American higher education system. EAB’s Enrollment Services conducts a yearly survey with college-bound high school students to assess the factors that affect their college admission decision. Higher education experts are encouraging students, as well as their parents, to look beyond cost in their college-choice behavior. Based on the survey, college-bound high school students remain inclined towards their chosen choice. Parents, on the other hand, puts the cost as the top factor to consider when choosing the school for their children. In 2012, 25% of parents put price as a top concern. This percentage increased to 36% in 2016.
In the academic year 2018-2019, the College Board determined a 3.3% or $1,130 increase in the average national tuition for a private non-profit four-year college. This raises the tuition from $34,700 to $35,830. While the average public four-year tuition and fee in public in-state four-year institution increased from $25,670 to $26,290 between the two academic years.
Looking beyond the tuition rates will allow you to understand that earning a college education is a worthwhile investment. Explore your options and start by knowing the necessary expenses once you start college.
Categories of College Expenses
Time and again, we are reminded that college in the United States is expensive. It is the primary concern for everyone, especially those who are only starting their freshmen year. You can always minimize your expenses by taking a conscious effort in managing your finances before classes begin. College Board, through their yearly publication Trends in College Pricing reports that tuition and fees as well as room and board increases. This data is based on the published average price across the nation. Colleges and universities do not only implement additional cost in tuition and fee; they also add surcharges in room and board. Consequently, prices of books, transportation, and other requirements will rise.
The best step to take is to make a budget plan. Assess your expenses and look for ways to save. Creating a realistic, practical financial plan will help you control your money. This might help you lessen your debt after graduation.
The first thing to do is research. For you to be better prepared with your finances, find out the main categories of your expenses. We have listed them all down for you. The types include tuition and fees, room and board, books and other supplies, transportation, personal living expenses, and emergency fund. For the most part, you can control how much money you allocate to each of these categories. However, there will come a time that you will need to stretch your budget. It is vital that you save enough for emergencies. Remember, you are away from your family, so you need to fend for yourself.
Tuition and Fees
Your tuition and fees will comprise the most significant chunk of your college fund. It is the cost colleges, and universities charge for the classes you take. There is no fixed amount for tuition and fees as it will depend on your academic program. This will only change based on the number of credit hours you will take per semester. Most importantly, your school choice will significantly affect the cost of your college education. You might consider going to a public or state school as compared to entering a private school. However, with the current trend in American higher education cost, it will still be expensive.
The average cost in public four-year out-of-state institution in the academic year 2018-2019 is $26,290. This is considerably higher than that in in-of-state colleges, which costs $10,230 in the same academic year. On the one hand, tuition and fees in private four-year non-profit institution report an average cost of $35,830.
Some academic programs may require additional fees on top of tuition cost. Students who major in culinary arts or engineering, for example, may need to pay for laboratory classes. Additionally, some categories will require specialized tools and other equipment. The total tuition cost and fees include student fees that you cannot opt out. This may include library fees, internet fees, student affairs, security, and other services. Maximize the services available on the campus to get value for your money.
Accommodation is available in- and out-of-campus. Colleges offer spaces in campus dormitories, which may include meal plans. Where you will decide to stay while attending college will determine the cost of your accommodation. In the academic 2018-2019, the national average cost for room and board in out-of-state public colleges is $11,140. This is slightly different in private non-profit four-year institutions which estimate the price at $12,680.
Living on-campus is undeniably not the cheapest choice. However, it does offer the added convenience of having a predictable cost of accommodation. You may choose to opt for quarterly or per semester payment arrangements. More so, many schools across the country require students to live on-campus, especially during the first two years of college. After the first and second year, you may choose to live off-campus. This is an excellent opportunity to explore the community.
Board includes food costs. There are meal plans offered on-campus, which will help you budget your finances. You can choose between set meal plans or an unlimited dining plan. If you ever decide to live off-campus, you need to be cost-conscious, too!
Books and Supplies
Books and supplies may add up to $1,240 in both public and private four-year higher education institutions. Of course, you need books as well as course materials for every class that you attend. Students tend to overlook this expense, considering that tuition and fees are already costly. You can minimize this cost by buying secondhand books or renting books from your upperclassmen. Another way is to take classes that only require low-cost materials. This significantly lowers the overall cost of your college education.
Personal and Living Expenses
Since you are away from home, naturally, you will need to allocate a budget for laundry, phone bills, school supplies, personal care items, and similar expenses. You cannot discount the fact that you will have to attend some social events, including going to family gatherings. Most students neglect to include this category in the list of their college expenses. You should not make the same mistake. Always account for possible costs, whether predictable or not.
If you live off-campus, set aside money for transportation. Even if you live in a dormitory within campus grounds, you will still need to spend on the occasional trip home. This will all come down to how often you will take the trip. Public transportation offers student discounts, something you need to take advantage of. If you drive your car, you need to account for gas. Some colleges provide transportation services, which may include mass transit options. If you own a vehicle, you may need to pay student parking fees.
It need not be reiterated that college is expensive, but with the help of your parents and financial aid programs, you will eventually earn your degree. It is essential to set aside an emergency fund for when something unexpected comes up. Most young adults get serious with money only later on in life. Making wise decisions with money will serve you well. According to Bankrate, 34% of American households do not have an emergency fund. Most of them have gone through an unexpected expense every year based on the latest Financial Security Index survey.
You can start saving by getting into the habit of allocating a specific amount into your emergency fund. This will come in handy when an emergency does come up. An emergency fund will prove very useful because you are away from home. In the same survey, 19% of the participants said that they would use their credit card to cover the expense or borrow from a friend. Both options result in more debt.
Most importantly, your emergency fund is an investment to yourself. When you start early, it will grow over the years. You may be able to use it to pay off your student loan debt after graduation or keep yourself afloat when you are jobless after college.
Make it a part of your routine. Set a goal. Get a separate account for your emergency fund to secure the money, and so you will not get it mixed up with your working fund. Enjoy the comfort it will bring once you obtain your finances.
Tuition Trends and Challenges
A college degree is essential for a bright future. If you have a degree, all kinds of opportunities open to you. You have more chances of getting a regular job with satisfying pay, and if you are lucky, you can even earn more than you expect. Students are well aware of the long-term benefits of having a degree, which is why they enroll in the first place. The only problem is, not all students who enroll in a degree program complete all the requirements. There are a lot of factors why some students do not finish their degree. The main reason being, tuition fee keeps on increasing.
The United States Department of Education reveals that the tuition rates at public four-year colleges have doubled over the past three decades, taking inflation into account. The agency estimates that one in ten people from low-income families is a bachelor’s degree holder. On the other hand, half of Americans from high-income families hold a bachelor’s degree by the age of 25. The National Center for Education Statistics provides that it is the black, Hispanic, American Indians/Alaska native that comprise the least graduation rate.
While America has a high percentage of high school graduates, there are only about 69.8% who enroll in college following graduation. In the fall of 2018, there was an increase in the number of student enrollees. It is also projected that enrollment will continue to increase between the fall of 2018 and 2027.
Low graduation and high dropout rates, which are partly caused by expensive tuition, have long been hounding the college education system in the US. The dropout rate is high, and the overall percentage of colleges that are affordable to low-income families sits only at 5%. For a first world country like the United States, the labor force is an important sector. If the graduation rate is dismal, and there is a high unemployment rate, which, in turn, tremendously impacts the economy.
The Dropout Rate Consequence
The U.S. Department of Education knows the consequences of the increasing dropout rate to the economy, which is why research and national policies focus on resolving this issue. Government and private organizations provide financial aid or student loans to alleviate the rising costs of education. However, it is not clear if these programs have a positive impact on college graduation rates.
In his research, Wesley Whistle of the American Council for Education said that student loans do not help students get by. Students who have decided to take out a student loan earn lower income throughout their lives. What is more alarming is that some are most likely to be unemployed. The government then must also restructure its policy on student aid. It is proven that a high graduation rate results to a lot of advantages on the part of the government. This shifted the attention of the federal government to focus on the graduation rate as a critical component in discussing accountability in the higher education sector.
Graduation rates have become a visible indicator of how well academic institutions in the U.S. deliver their education to American citizens and beyond. Graduation and earning a salary means fewer people are poor. Hence, they do not need to rely on local, state, federal programs. Earning graduates are taxpayers. They add to the government funds. When more students graduate and secure employment, they become less likely to depend on government social services. Hence, a more stable economic climate.
Considering this, what are the factors why there is a dropout rate problem in the country? Is a financial challenge the only problem? Here are some reasons why students drop out:
One of the reasons why there is a dropout rate problem is the expensive tuition fees. According to the National Association of Student’s Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), low-income families cannot afford to go to 95% of colleges. Even after taking into consideration student loans, low-income families still cannot provide 70% of higher education institutions in the country. There is an affordability problem in the U.S. Higher Education, and the government is in a constant search for ways to resolve it.
Apart from most colleges not being affordable, families are struggling financially due to circumstances like a caregiver losing their job. Also, data shows that about 40% of student borrowers will default their loan payments and get trapped them in a cycle of debt that, ultimately, forces them to opt out of school.
The problem does not end with soaring tuition rates. The cost of books, rent, and everyday expenses force students to decide to continue or to stop studying. Students realize that while worth it, in the long run, the cost of education is high. Paying for a degree is not their only problem. To fund themselves, students know that they need a full-time job to pay for the fees. This could make attending classes impossible.
Some students are not prepared for the hurdles that come with attending college. As a result, they fail to put forth enough time and effort to make college work in their favor. The way students handle pressure is also an essential factor. As young adults try to navigate academic advancement, they get stuck in the vicious cycle of debt. The best course of action is to devise a plan that will help you clear your path towards a college degree.
Unconvinced with Their Major
College students expect more out of their chosen field. When they finally study it and get disappointed that the major was not what they were expecting, they drop out. Sometimes students attend the major that is not their first choice. Because they have no interest, they think it as a waste of time and opt to drop out. Most students are indecisive about their majors. Do not make the same mistake.
Family and Work commitments
Another reason why students drop out of college is family and work commitments. Most of the time, students struggle with their studies because of the stress brought about by their personal life. Not all students have parents that can send them to school without any financial worries. Most importantly, not all students have understanding caregivers and healthy family environment. Family expectations are one of the things that they have to struggle with. They are expected to support the family. Most of the time, their salaries are not enough to support themselves and their family, to the detriment of their studies.
Tuition Increase Trend
College Board reports that as higher education struggled with the economy between 2008-2009 and 2013-2014, the published tuition fee increase rose by 14% for nonprofit four-year institutions and by 30% in the two-year and four-year sectors.
Private non-profit colleges and universities raised their tuition rates by 10% within the years 2013 and 2014. This was the highest recorded increase at 10% as of the 2018-2019 school year. Between the school years 2013-2014 and 2018-2019, the average tuition in public two-year colleges had a 5% increase,
The number of financial aid programs climbed by more than 60% between 2007-2008 and 2010-2011. The number of financial grants rose to only 6% between 2010-2011 and 2017-2018.
Skyrocketing tuition rates pose a threat to college completion. Financial aid programs that don’t keep up are a cause of worry for college students and families.
There is no analysis of what caused the changes in tuition prices, but the report cites factors such as dwindling enrollment rates and state funding, institutional expenditures and revenues, and uneven endowment resource distribution across institutions as contributing factors.
The aid and tax benefits are given to students to cover all the tuition and fees for public two-year college students. But while these measures exist, students still have to shell out almost $8,300 per year in non-tuition expenses. For public four-year college undergraduates, the amount is nearly $15,000 and as for private nonprofit colleges and universities about $27,300.
Colleges Offering the Most Expensive Degrees
As an incoming first-year student in college, it is prudent that you know the cost of your preferred degree. Here is a list of the most expensive degrees in the US:
Women’s History and Law, Sarah Lawrence College
Sarah Lawrence College, previously an exclusive school for women, is a private liberal arts college founded in 1926. The college’s program in history and law is one of the most expensive degrees with a tuition fee amounting to a staggering $403, 962 for four years. Sarah Lawrence boasts its unique course instruction which caters to student’s inquisitive nature. There are no required courses, and there is no examination.
Public Policy and Law, Trinity College
Trinity College is a non-sectarian private liberal arts college in Hartford Connecticut. Having a historical affiliation with the Episcopal Church, it is the second oldest post-secondary academic institution in the state. It offers a variety of programs; the most notably expensive of which is their program in Public Policy and Law.
Music Degree, Bard College
Bard College’s music program is one of the highest paid college degrees. Tuition and fees amount to $271,375 for the regular duration of the course. It is one of the college’s most extensive programs. It provides a wide range of concentration, including classical composition jazz, electronic music, musicology, and music theory.
Media Studies, Vassar College
Vassar College started as an exclusive school for women. If you are interested in studying media, their media studies program offers top-notch education. If media studies are your passion and you have the money, then this school is for you. The cost of the program is one of the most expensive in the world amounting to $223,525 in the regular duration of the course.
Biochemistry, Bucknell University
The Biochemistry program at Bucknell University is one of the most expensive degrees in the country. According to the university website, tuition totals to $219,330. While expensive, the university offers the best biochemistry program in the United States. Biochemistry is one of the fields that open students to a variety of career paths. If you have the money and you want to take the best biochemistry program in the United States, then this is the best choice. Bucknell University is a private school founded in 1846. It is located in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.
Colleges Offering the Most Affordable Degrees
Even if the tuition fees of some universities are skyrocketing, do not lose hope yet! There are still universities out there that seek to help students be successful by making their degree programs affordable.
The ranking criteria are based on the most recent data from NCES College Navigator’s database. Note that schools charging high out-of-state tuition were removed from this list. For-profit colleges that didn’t hold one of the six regional accreditations and those that were not accredited were also removed.
Here is a list of accredited colleges that offer affordable degrees:
George Basin College
George Basin College is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). The NWCCU ensures education quality and institutional effectiveness in the Northwest Region of the United States. The college has a published annual tuition fee of $2,805.
Brigham Young University – Idaho
Brigham Young University-Idaho is supervised by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. According to US News and World report, it is the tenth best university in the United States. It offers one of the most affordable yearly tuition rates at an estimated $3,830.
University of Texas
The University of Texas consistently makes it to the list of best value schools in America with flat-rate tuition rates. It includes all the cost for the academic program of your choice and is updated each semester. You may apply for a payment plan and exception option as the university’s tuition or finance office. The University of Texas is a fast-growing public research institution, proving that it is a source of quality education and competent graduates.
West Governors University
The West Governors University is an affordable online university which offers diverse degree programs. It is mission driven, providing accessible education to everyone without worrying about the cost. WGU is the first university to adopt competency-based bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. As a non-profit university, offering flat-rate tuition. As a part of its commitment to continue providing affordable education, it offers online courses at half the cost of other online schools. West Governors University helps their graduates lessen student loan debt, and eventually, graduate without debt.
Thomas Edison State University
Thomas Edison State University educates students both online and on-campus, promising one of the best value higher education in the country and the world. Thomas Edison State University has developed unique academic programs that cater to adult learners. It maintains the same level of academic excellence through the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation.
Ways to Afford College
Over the years, tuition fees have been increasing at a the more challenging it is for families to send their children to college. Paying for college involves getting money from all possible sources. For a parent sending a child to school, it consists of another job or two to fund it. Knowing that there is no shortcut to success but a degree, sacrifices need to be made. To lessen the strain college fees give to the family budget, parents save money.
A study involving 2,000 parents showed that more than half of those with children under age 18 consciously save money. Some 51% of the surveyed parents have a plan for funding college. A significant portion of them, 56% to be exact, are millennial parents who have a college plan for their children. Among those who have set a college fund, only 88% have shown confidence that they will be able to achieve a college savings plan.
That is why this savings can only pay for a portion of the tuition. So, if you are a parent who sends a child to school or a student, how to afford the tuition fee of your chosen university is one of the things that you must know and be updated about. Education is an essential milestone to success. That is why if you aim to get a degree, it is inevitable for you to think about how to fund your college tuition fee.
Here are the ways the different ways you can do to afford your tuition:
Apply with the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA)
If you want to afford your tuition fee, you must be acquainted with FAFSA. Filling out the FAFSA is important because it opens the door to several financial aid gr. Usually, before you apply for a federal grant or student loan provided by the university or your state, you must first fill out the FAFSA. FAFSA allows you to have access to federal aid such as student loans or Pell grant but many institutions also use this to determine those who are qualified for financial assistance.
To apply for FAFSA, you need to prepare the following:
1. FSA ID
Each student and parent need an FSA ID, which should be a username and password you use to access the U.S. Department of Education website. Note that you cannot make an FSA ID for another person. You have to make one for yourself and no one else.
2. Social Security Number
Your social security number is found on your social security card. If you misplace or lose your card, ask your parent or guardian to get a replacement. If you are an international student, you need an alien registration number.
3. Driver’s License
If you do not have a driver’s license, there is no need to worry. This is not a critical requirement. You can still apply for FSA even if you lack this requirement.
4. Previous Taxable Year
In 2017, the FAFSA form started to require an attachment of a report of tax records for the previous taxable year.
5. Record of Untaxed income
When you apply for FAFSA, there will be questions that do not apply to you as child support received. Now, if you are asked about your previous tax or other such information, you must provide the details. There is a separate requirement for students and parents.
When you apply for a financial aid grant, you are required to submit a record of your assets. This is important because before you can acquire aid, you must first be eligible for it. One way to see if you are qualified is through your income and the things that you own.
You must provide a list for the schools you are interested in applying to. It is advised that you list them even though you are not sure whether you can pursue a degree. The school you listed will receive your FAFSA results. This will be their basis to determine the amount of aid you will receive.
Pell Grant is a form of college subsidy. It is the largest federal grant available to undergraduate students who are from low-income families. Before you can be awarded this grant, you need to apply with the FAFSA first. You must demonstrate that you need financial aid before you can qualify.
Note, however, that not all schools participate. If you want to apply with this grant, you must check whether your school of choice participate in the grant. If the school is not a member, then you cannot be awarded aid. Remember that your enrollment status is essential in determining your eligibility. The student is required to be enrolled in a participating school at least half-time. If the student is enrolled less than full-time, the amount of aid will be adjusted.
The Pell Grant is only eligible for students from low-income families whose income is less than $50,000. It does not pay for the whole amount of the tuition fee. The amount of aid is based on different factors like family size or income. The US Department of Education said that in the academic year 2015-2016, students received 64% of the maximum amount.
What is great about Pell Grant is that you can claim aid during summer classes. Financial aid applied only to spring and fall college programs, but in 2017, summer classes were included. The financial assistance is used to pay for nontuition fees like books, rent, transportation, and other expenses.
The maximum amount a student obtains from the Pell grant is 600% of your subsidy. This is limited to only six years of study.
Here is an overview of the eligibility requirements for a Pell Grant:
- Be an undergraduate student who has not earned a college degree
- Enrolled in an eligible degree in a participating institution
- With a high school degree
- A U.S. citizen, if a noncitizen must eligible for the grant
Federal Student Loan
Federal Student Loan is an investment for your future. In this type of loan, your lender is the federal government. Being a loan, you have the responsibility to pay them back. Since this is an obligation, it is advised that you understand your options and responsibilities.
This is only one of the two types of student loans offered, the other being a private student loan. If you want to borrow money to pay for school, it is advised that you exhaust the federal aid before acquiring a student loan.
Here are the four types of federal student loans:
- Direct Subsidized Loans
This is a loan that is available to undergraduate students who need financial assistance to pay for college. Under this program, it is the school which determines the amount an applicant can borrow. There is a set ceiling for the maximum amount you can borrow. It must not exceed your financial need. When you attend an accredited college institution, the U.S. Department of Education pays for the interest in your Direct Subsidized Loan.
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans
Eligibility of undergraduate, graduate and professional students do not need to demonstrate financial need. Same as the Direct Subsidized Loan, the school determines the loanable amount. However, you will pay the interest during the pendency of the loan. You can choose to hold an interest in forbearance and start paying after graduation or six months after that.
- Direct Plus Loans
These are loans to help pay for expenses not covered by financial aid. Eligible applicants include graduate professional students and parents of dependent undergraduate students. They need not demonstrate financial need. If you want to avail of this, you need to make a credit check.
- Direct Consolidation Loan
Through this, you can combine all your student loans to a single loan servicer.
The amount you can borrow in federal student loans depends on your status as a student. Are you an undergraduate, graduate, or professional student, or a parent?
Undergraduate students get anywhere between $5,500 and $12,500 in direct subsidized and direct unsubsidized loans. Graduate students and professional students get up to $20,500 in direct subsidized loans. You can use Direct PLUS loans for expenses not covered by your financial aid. Parents of an undergraduate student receive a Direct PLUS Loan for the remainder of their child’s college costs.
When weighing your options on how to pay for college, there is nothing wrong with applying for student loans. But you must remember that it includes an obligation on your part to pay it back, so there is no harm in being cautious about it. If you decided to apply for a federal student loan, you must apply with the FAFSA first. Your results will be sent to your school of choice; it will be the basis of their offer for financial aid, which includes federal student loans.
Private Student Loans
Private Student Loans are those loan programs offered by private institutions like banks or schools. Unlike Federal loans, payment is due while you are still in school. Some colleges do defer payments. The Interest for such loans may vary, but some impose fixed taxes. It can be higher or lower than the federal loan rates. It is advised that when you are in the middle of finding aid, you also consider private student loans because its interest may be lower than the federal credit. Private loans are not subsidized, which means unlike a federal loan, you will be responsible for repayment, including interest.
Start a 529 Plan
A 529 plan is a tax-advantaged savings plan which helps you save money for the future education of your children. It is an account opened for a young child. This savings can accrue over time. It is legally known as a qualified tuition plan sponsored by states, state agencies, and educational institutions authorized by section 539 of the Internal Revenue Code.
It is advised to save for the education of a child because when he enrolls in college, every cent counts. Parents don’t know much about this method because they are either not aware that it exists, or think that paying for college is not an immediate expense. Opening a 529 account will significantly help parents fund for the education of their children.
Enroll in an affordable University
Your tuition fee is greatly affected by your chosen college; that is why you must select the most affordable college for your needs. Financial aid packages differ in each school, so when you receive aid offers from various schools, you should compare them.
Consider Community College
Some students attend a community college for two years and then transfer to a four-year college to finish their degree. Some use this method to decrease their educational expenses.
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) says that the average expenses for a 2-year community college in 2016-2017 was $10,655 per year. The cost of four-year undergraduate courses in state college average $17,987 per year. A full four year degree may cost you $71,948, but if you attended a community college for two years, you pay only $57,284. Community colleges help you save up to $14,000 just for your tuition fee.
Enroll in an Online Degree
Enrolling in an online college lets you save on nontuition fees like travel and housing. Online colleges also offer ways for you to cut off costs. Web-based college classes allow students to take more or fewer units for a semester to suit your schedule and requirements. The individualized approach in online learning offers you the flexibility to successfully earn your degree.
Apply for College Scholarships or Grants
The best way to afford college tuition fees is to apply for a scholarship or grant, which does not require repayment. There are many scholarship grants available on-campus, as well as through private organizations. Schools offer it to deserving students, following a merit-based approach. It is best that you spend time searching for scholarships and apply for as many as you can. Usually, universities award their students with scholarship grant through FAFSA. That is how vital FAFSA is. Through the system, you get financial aid award letters from school, granting you a scholarship. This will significantly reduce your college costs. If you want to apply, speak to the school’s financial aid office and know your options.
Participate in Work Study Programs
Another way to lessen the cost of your education is to participate in work-study programs. This function as part-time jobs for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students with financial need. Through the program, you will earn money to help you pay for your school fees. This program mainly focuses on community work and work related to your field of study. Your financial need often dictates your work-study eligibility.
A participating school administers the Federal Work-Study program. Your job is either on campus or off campus. If you work on campus, you’ll work for your school. If you work off-campus, you will work with a private nonprofit organization or a public agency. For off-campus work, you’ll be doing a job in the public interest.
Cut College Cost
Here are proven ways to cut the overall cost of college:
1. Graduate on time.
If you want to save college cost, you must graduate on time. Taking on another year will mean extra expenses for you to pay. To do this, it takes dedication and close coordination with your academic advisor to make sure you’re on track.
2. Avoid transferring schools.
Transferring schools could spell another semester or two for you. Requirements change and some of the units you took from your previous school may not be accepted at the new school.
3. Use college credit in high school.
Some high school offer courses that offer dual college credit, or college credit hours you don’t need to pay tuition for. Since this means you already took some credits for college, you can even graduate earlier than expected with this. You should work hard in those classes and meet the grade requirements for them to be credited in college.
4. Negotiate your Financial Aid
If your circumstances change, consider negotiating your financial aid award. Some schools might be willing to increase it based on your reevaluation. This way, the financial aid committee in your school of choice can better understand the circumstances surrounding your appeal. Before submitting your request, especially for a need-based program of college financial assistance, determine the definitive amount you have in mind and be reasonable about it. Take into account tuition and fees, books, room and board, and other expenses. Do not be greedy. Accept the amount that will close the gap between you and a college degree.
College is Still Worth It!
This echoes the sentiment of 90% of parents with college-bound children who believe in the value of a college education. At first glance, the prospect of going to college is a daunting financial impossibility for most American citizens. The national average cost for a four-year college is nearly $30,000 per year, while private institutions could cost up to $50,000. While the cost of higher education in the United States remains the highest in the world, parents and students invest in a degree. This is based on the data that shows how an undergraduate degree leads to a high-paying job and less unemployment.
In 2016, those who have a college diploma earned an average of $65,482. This is considerably higher compared to $35,615 average annual salary of those with a high school degree. A bachelor’s degree remains to have a competitive edge in terms of opportunities and avenues available to you.
Reiterating the long-term gain versus the short-term struggles, the college remains to be a smart investment. This is true despite the increasing student loan balance, which reached $15 billion during the last quarter of 2018. With the many opportunities to get funding, scholarships, and grants, students are coming to realize that the value of higher education offsets its cost.