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An illustration of a piggy bank with a graduation cap on
An illustration of a piggy bank with a graduation cap on
An illustration of a piggy bank with a graduation cap on
published march 2024

Don’t let the cost give you sticker shock.

From filling out the FAFSA to finding scholarship opportunities, we can help guide you through the process.

So, you’re thinking about taking the leap into higher education? Awesome! Before you dive headfirst into textbook and lecture halls, let’s talk about the cost.

First things first, what is higher education? FYI: It isn’t just college. It’s where you go to get a specialized education that’ll give you tools and knowledge you’ll need to pursue a certain career.

Now, let’s get back on track to what you probably came here to read about: the cost. Unfortunately, higher education isn't exactly cheap. Don’t worry, there are many options out there that can help you foot the bill.

Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step to seeing what kinds of financial assistant you’re eligible for. Like a lot of federal forms, it’s a bit of a lift, but it unlocks opportunities for scholarships, grants, work-study programs, student loans and more.

Getting started with federal student aid can be tricky, so we’re here to help. Check out the FAFSA events we hold at our branches.

Ways to pay:

Scholarships and grants: Scholarships are free money awarded to you for your academic achievements, athletic ability, or showcasing unique skill, or unique skills, like crafting a creative essay on surviving a zombie invasion at your school. (It’s a real thing!)

Grants, on the other hand, are usually need-based, so they’re awarded to students who demonstrate financial need.

Work-study: These programs give students with financial needs part-time jobs to earn money to help cover their education. The jobs are usually related to the student’s major or community service work.

Part-time jobs: If work study isn’t your thing, or maybe you didn’t qualify for it, you can always pick up shifts somewhere off campus. Just be sure you balance work and school so you’re not pulling all-nighters to catch up on homework.

Student loans: These are often a necessary part of higher education. They can help cover costs, but you must pay them back.

While you’re looking at your options, you may see terms like subsidized loans and unsubsidized loans. Here’s what that means:

Subsidized loans are based on financial need. The government pays the interest while you're in school, during deferment, and for the grace period.

Unsubsidized loans are available to all students, regardless of financial need. You’re responsible for the interest from day one.

Be sure you understand what you’re borrowing before you sign on the dotted (or virtual) line.

Costs to consider:

Now, let’s talk about the not-so-obvious expenses of higher education. Sure, tuition is a big chunk of change, but there are plenty of other expenses to plan for:

Books and supplies: Those textbooks aren’t going to buy themselves. Be prepared to shell out some cash for required reading materials and other classroom supplies. 

Housing: Whether you’re living on campus or off, you’ll need a roof over your head. Don’t forget to budget for rent, utilities, and other housing-related expenses.

Food: Ramen noodles might be cheap, but they’re not very nutritious. Be sure to budget for groceries or meal plans to keep your belly full and your brain fueled.

Transportation: Getting to and from campus can add up, especially if you don’t have a car. Factor in the cost of public transportation, gas, or parking fees.

Personal expenses: From toiletries and laundry detergent to seeing a movie or getting new shoes, the little things can really add up. Don’t overlook budgeting for these personal expenses.

Higher education might be a pricey endeavor, but with a little planning and creative budgeting, you can make it work.

Just remember, the investment you make in yourself now will pay off big time in the long run. So go ahead, chase those dreams, fill out that FAFSA, and don’t let the cost of school hold you back.