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How to Pay for College on a Budget

Updated on August 3, 2014

Many people fret over how they are going to pay for a college education. All throughout high school they are inundated with information about how expensive college is, and pushing them to go to various Universities. For those that will not get a full ride at a University, and those that simply cannot afford to dish out tens of thousands of dollars for college should consider some alternatives to going straight to a 4 year University.

If you take some simple steps, and work your way through college you will be able to complete your college education without owing thousands in student loans.

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  • Do not be lured into a false sense of security when you are offered student loans at low interest rates, and deferred payment until 6 months after you graduate. If you get into these programs you will often be paying the loans off the rest of your life, and the initial income difference with an education will be used up paying for that education.
  • Go to a Community College. Many Community Colleges have tuition as little as 20 dollars a unit, and in most cases this is waived by the state. You will find that Community Colleges offer two years of schooling that is transferable to most Universities as the first two years there. Doing this will save you 2 years of paying tens of thousands of dollars for school.
  • Fill out your FAFSA online at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov or through your local Community College. This is the federal aid application program. It will qualify you for various grants, but the main one is the Pell Grant. The Pell Grant is free money with a maximum of $5,550 a year. You are not required to pay it back or account for it. Since your first two years are free tuition, you could use a few hundred for books, some for expenses, and save the rest for when you transfer to a University.
  • Get a part time job. This may sound like too much, but many people successfully work full time jobs and are still capable of going to college.
  • Try online classes. Online classes are great. They are easier, and require much less time compared to a traditional class. You will be able to dedicate more time to your part time job, and won’t have to worry about transportation costs.
  • Keep saving any extra money you have. You have two years to do it. This may be difficult, but if you save your money now you will be able to buy a lot more luxuries later on in life.
  • Transfer all your units to your University. Public Universities are by far the more cost effective way to go. Cal State University charges about $6000 a year for tuition depending on the school. Minus your Pell Grant you should be able to cover the extra one to two thousand required for tuition and books with your savings and part time job.


How much did you expect to spend on College per year to obtain a Bachelors Degree?

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An Example in California

Going to college does not have to be daunting. to put this guide into perspective; in California you could obtain a bachelors degree for close to nothing. The Board of Governors fee waiver makes your tuition free at a local community college if you qualify for a Pell Grant. You would also receive up to $5,645 per year for the 2013/2014 school year. If you purchase you books used it would cost a few hundred dollars per semester. That makes the rest of the Pell Grant available for whatever use you choose. You could then place the remainder into a savings account as you complete your general education requirements for transfer to a state university.

When you are ready to transfer to a 4 year university apply the money from your savings account towards tuition costs, alongside your current Pell Grant. At Cal State University campuses the per semester tuition is $5,472. If you properly save your Pell Grant, and obtained close to the maximum you would be looking at just shy of $1,000 dollars per year for only the last 2 years of your education to obtain a bachelors degree.

This is of depends on the amount of your Pell Grant. So head on over to the FAFSA website, and get your college career started.

© 2014 Daniel W Burgess

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