College Costs: How to Afford Your Dream School

College costs keep rising, and if you’re headed to college, it’s inevitable that you’ll feel the impact.

In fact, your tuition is likely going to increase every year you’re in college. The average cost of a public college was $6,185 a year during the 2007-2008 school year, according to the College Board. That’s an increase of 6.6 percent from the previous year. Think that’s expensive? Private colleges’ average tuition increased 6.3 percent, averaging $23,712 per year. Multiply that by four years, and you might pay nearly $100,000 for four years of education.

And don’t forget about paying for books, lab fees, rent, food and emergency trips to the mall.

So how do you afford your dream school? Don’t freak out just yet. You might get sticker shock from seeing the tuition of colleges you’re considering, but there are scholarships, government money and loans to help you afford your dream school, whether it be an Ivy or your nearest state university.

Public vs. private

Yes, the published tuition is more expensive at a private college. Private colleges don’t receive state funding like public colleges, but they often offer higher scholarship amounts.

“For a student with decent test scores or financial need, in addition to federal aid that can be obtained at any school, almost all private schools offer grants and scholarships to lower the price,” says Dr. Jonathan C. Roberts, director of financial aid at Harding University, a private university in Searcy, Ark.

Private colleges also offer scholarships for talents beyond your SAT score. “Many private colleges offer aid for students involved in art, music, dance and theater performance,” says Evelyn Nelson, executive director of student administrative services at Lynn University, a private university in Boca Raton, Fla..

Like private colleges, public colleges also provide scholarships to deserving students. And if you attend a state college where you’re a resident, you’ll see lower tuition costs. “With state financial aid, there is often a benefit of staying in your home state,” says Ann Hendrick, director of college planning for the Education Services Foundation.

For example, the State University of New York system offers qualified residents $500 to full tuition with the New York Tuition Assistance Program, which is included on the FAFSA application.

Keep in mind there is more than $130 billion in aid and scholarships available to students. Chances are you can find a way to pay for your education, no matter how expensive it may seem the first time you see the overwhelming prices in the glossy brochure.

Cost of living

Whether you decide to live in a dorm or stay off campus, you’ll have to factor in everyday costs to your college budget.

You might want to save off-campus living until your upperclassman years. You have enough to worry about adjusting to your new college life without stressing about rent and disappearing granola bars (also known as “spontaneous roommate food kleptomania”).

But what’s included in a college’s room and board? With the average cost at $7,404 a year, you get a place to live and a meal plan. That may not sound like a lot, but when you break down the numbers, you’re actually getting a deal. (Even cheaper: living at home with your parents!)

If you split rent, utilities, cable and Internet in a two-bedroom apartment with a roommate, you can plan on paying about $500 a month or more. Add to that the cost of groceries (or take-out), and you’ll end up spending more than if you were to live in the dorms.

“Many students move off campus because they think it will be less expensive, but instead find themselves eating out more often, and the expense is greater,” Hendrick says.

And you might even need to find a part-time job to help pay for your off-campus living expenses.

A part-time job might also help you with the high cost of textbooks and supplies. Consider this: According to the College Board, the national average for books and supplies at four-year private colleges during the 2006-2007 school year was $935.

Paying for your dream school

Affording your dream college is not out of your (or your parents’) reach. With financial aid, scholarships and loans, the money is out there. “Never rule out the possibility of attending the school of your dreams based on the sticker price,” Roberts says. “The sticker price almost always decreases after applying for financial aid.

Article by Emily Shearing
Article provided by Next Step Magazine

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