Paying For College

Paying For College
By:  Wes Wallace
Cape Girardeau,MO -With tuition rates spiraling upward each year at most colleges and universities, it’s no secret earning that college degree comes with a hefty price tag.

According to "The College Board", on average, you'll pay a little over thirty thousand dollars a year for a private school, adding up to a whopping hundred and thirty thousand dollars after four years.  Public colleges run about half that, at about 15.5 thousand a year, or 62-thousand for four years.

“Sophomore year isn’t too early to start thinking about paying for college,” says Karen Walker, the Director of Student Financial Services at Southeast Missouri State University.

That's sophomore year of high school, to begin looking for scholarships, grants, and loan options.

Walker recommends you start by filling out the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  You can do so online at www.fafsa.ed.gov , or pick up the application at a local financial aid office.  From there, you can learn what type of aid and how much aid you’re eligible to receive.

"Don't forget deadlines, because aid is awarded on priority, processing deadlines, so it's important to make sure you know what they are," Walker adds, " Different schools have different deadlines.

Walker also recommends using the internet to search for other financial aid opportunities.

Here are a few that might help get you started.  Some of them deal with loan information, others are scholarship search engines.

However, there’s not enough free money for everyone.  “There’s a good chance throughout someone’s college career, there’s going to be some kind of borrowing, and we encourage students to know the obligations of borrowing,” says Walker.
In fact interest rates on certain federal loans are going up this year, such as the federal Stafford and the Plus Parent federal loans.  If you’re already out of school and still paying, you should know that you can consolidate your loans, but you can only do it once and one time only.

"You can look into consolidation and bring it all together at a lower rate, but in the long run, you might be paying for several more years," says Yvonne Moore, Southeast's Loan Coordinator.

Moore suggests a few simple tips for getting loans and not losing your mind or the shirt off your back along the way, “Get informed, follow through with paperwork, plan ahead, and remember to keep debt levels manageable.”

Finally, make a budget and stick to it, because college spending for tuition, books, housing, meals, and everything else can add up fast and spending could get out of hand.