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The Top 4 Best Ways to Pay for College – How to Fill the Funding Gap

Let’s face it – no one is accepted to college and thinks, “I can’t wait to pay my tuition bill!” College is a big investment, which is why it’s important to know your options, plan ahead, and choose wisely when paying for it. Remember: filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step to securing any financial aid! Follow the “free, cheap, gap” method to responsibly pay for college, and set yourself for a strong financial future down the road.

1. Take the “Free” Money First – Scholarships and Grants 

First you should take advantage of scholarships and grants, which cost you nothing and do not have to be repaid as long as you meet their conditions. In other words, these equal FREE money for college. Most times this free money is not enough to cover your costs, so you will need to look into options for student loans.

2. Take “Cheap” Money Next – Work-Study Programs

This is a form of federal aid that allows students to work part-time jobs on campus to supplement their payments towards education expenses. Examples of these sorts of positions include library staff, IT specialists, office assistants, etc.

Jobs are usually community-oriented or relate to a student’s field of study in some way, though not every school participates in this program. Make sure you do some research to see if your school provides this as an option.

3. Federal Student Loans Come Next

After scholarships and grants, you should explore federal student loans that come with benefits not available from other types of loans. These are typically offered within your award letter from your college. Before you take out any loan, be aware that a loan is a legal obligation that you are responsible for repaying. Learn more about the types of federal student loans that may be available to you and your family:

4. Filling the “Gap” with Private Student Loans

When scholarships, grants, and federal student loans aren’t enough, you may need to consider private student loans. Private loans are made by private organizations such banks, credit unions, and state-based or state-affiliated organizations, and have terms and conditions that are set by the lender. Because offerings will vary, it’s important to review the rates, terms, and conditions before applying for a private student loan.

We have partnered with leading credit unions nationwide to provide a private student lending solution from your local, trusted financial institution. Unlike other for-profit lenders, credit unions always have your best interests in mind. You’ll find our private student loan partners provide:

  • Affordable rates 
  • Flexible repayment terms 
  • Educational resources
  • One-on-one application assistance and counseling

You can learn more about private student loans, find a credit union, and apply easily online.

Let us help answer your questions.

If you have additional questions about paying for college, consult our College Counselor, who provides free, personalized guidance on paying for college and navigating your options.