Making College Affordable

Many graduating high school seniors wonder what the big deal is about going to college or university. After all, doesn’t it make more sense to learn a trade, or put one you already know to use right away, and start earning instead of learning? Older students know the answer to that. In the short run, it’s tempting to jump into a job and start making money so you can quickly improve your lifestyle. In the long run, however, that will cost you.

Just look at the numbers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that over 65 percent of high school graduates attend college or trade school. Add to that figure all of the returning students who learned the hard way that the only way to make a decent living anymore is with a college degree.

Of course, a college education comes with a hefty price tag. A fortunate few may have a family with the resources to pay for college or a university, but with the economy’s recent downturn, most families can provide little or no financial help. While the overall economy has taken a recent nosedive, college costs have risen dramatically. A four-year undergraduate degree at a public in-state university will cost between $60,000 and $70,000 including tuition, room and board, fees, and books. This is nearly a 10 percent increase over the previous year. The average cost of attending a private school rose less than six percent in the same time period-but keep in mind that the cost for private colleges is more than double that of public schools.

It is important to know that support-and lots of it-is available. Financial aid can help by paying part or all of your tuition and living expenses. Scholarships, grants, loans and work study programs abound. All you need to know is where to go to find it, and how to present yourself as the perfect candidate for a gift or loan with a low interest rate. Since some of these financial aids are based on need, others on grades and past performance, and still others on specific talents or abilities, there really is something for everyone.