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Paying for College
Financial Aid

You've probably heard that college is an investment in your future, but what does that mean? In part, it's about putting money towards your educational expenses—tuition, books, lab fees—to move you closer to the life and career goals you’ve set for yourself. Get the information you need on paying for school, understanding your financial aid, and paying back what you owe.


5 main ways to afford the cost of college or career school

  1. Financial aid: Grants, Loans, Work-study, and Scholarships

  2. Savings: bank and college accounts (529 Plans)

  3. Cash Flow: student’s work and parents’ current salaries

  4. Tax help, such as the American Opportunity Tax Credit

  5. Find affordable and good value schools


General Information

Need-Based Aid

  • Grants and Federal Grant Chart 

  • Loans Federal Student Loans "Subsidized" (need-based)

  • Scholarships from the college (can be need or merit-based)

  • Scholarships from regional and national sources

  • Work Study: The “Federal Work-Study Program” is need-based program employment that provides jobs for students on and off campus. Check your school’s financial aid.  Some schools offer their own “Work-Study” for even merit-based students (meaning, you may still be eligible even if you don’t qualify for need-based).

  • Financial aid for your degree abroad (search for universities around the world accepting US federal aid).

FAFSA Resources

Merit-Based Aid & Other Forms of Financial Help


Hint! These give you a higher probability of success than nationally-based competitions:

2. CAMPUS-BASED AID: School and departmental aid (merit-based) & scholarships by dept/major, visit the college of your choice.

3. STUDENT LOANS: Federal subsidized and un-subsidized through FAFSA (

4. PARENT LOANS: Federal ParentPlus through FAFSA (


5. If there's still a gap in your need-based and merit-based award package:

  • File an appeal: If your family's financial situation has changed since you applied for aid, you may be eligible for more aid.

  • Apply for more scholarships. Don't assume you've missed all the deadlines to apply for scholarships—they vary from program to program. Check out regional and national free scholarship databases.

  • Work while you're in school, which can provide experience and may enhance your resume. Research shows that 10-15 hours per week is the ideal amount of time.

  • Reduce expenses by creating a budget. Less spending means more dollars available for tuition and fees.





1. Know the Net Price

  • The "Net Price Calculator" is key to navigating the true cost!  

  • Visit website of each school of interest and search for the campus’ Net Price Calculator for your family’s unique cost (15-30 minutes, 20-40 questions)

  • To find out whether the cost of your selected school is low, medium, or high, look at College Score Card and 

  • The inside scoop on Net Price Calculators here.

2. Find Good Values

3. WUE

The Western Undergraduate Education agreement between 14 Western States offers reduced out-of-state tuition for their public schools to residents of member states, reduced tuition of up to 150% of institution's regular resident tuition. (can be as low as $7-8k for WUE members). Not all schools and programs participate. Apply directly to college and mark “seek admission as WUE”.

4. "Decision Day" (Privates)

  • Before Decision Day: if you were offered admission but before accepting, you may be able to negotiate for a better package.  Diplomatically work with the Admissions Office (the student contacts them) or the Financial Aid office (the parents contact them). 

  • After Decision Day (if you did not get an offer): In early May, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) releases its College Openings Update, a list of colleges that still have openings. Some of these campuses may become more generous with an offer of admission and/or merit-based aid if they haven't hit their enrollment targets.  This list is typically available until June 30. 

College Night Sept 26th 2024

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