You can estimate how much specific schools will cost and determine whether your family has the funds to afford the expense using our Education Investment Planner.
In addition to tuition, you'll need to factor in various costs such as room and board, transportation, fees, books, and personal expenses. To get a good picture of the real cost of college, take time to read about the cost components.
When evaluating a school's affordability, look at your family's overall financial picture to determine which costs you can cover. If your family is like most, you'll need to investigate all the financial aid options offered at a school. Keep notes on everything you learn and file them in that school's folder.
If you're thinking about student loans, keep in mind that several factors (besides the amount you borrow) make up the true cost of education loans. Consider interest rates, fees, in-school payments, deferments, and government interest benefits paid and alternative repayment options available on federal subsidized student loans. It's a good idea to understand your responsibilities as a borrower, the consequences of excessive debt, and managing your finances. You can learn more about all of this in Manage your Money.
Contact the Financial Aid Office
If you can't find financial aid information in your research, you may need to contact each school's Financial Aid Office (FAO). Remember these offices are very busy at the beginning of each enrollment period (semester, trimester, or quarter), so try to schedule your call when things are a little less hectic for them.
Before you call, check out our Paying for College section, which can give you a speedy education on the language of financial aid.
Ask what the school offers in the way of financial aid. Find out how many students at the school get grants, scholarships, work-study, part-time jobs, and student loans. Ask things like:
- Does the school offer merit scholarships? Will they renew each year, as long as you keep up your grade point average?
- Does the school offer payment plans? This lets you spread tuition payments over the whole semester.
- What about work-study programs or jobs on campus?
- Does the school have campus-based loan programs?
The FAO can also help you understand the different types of student loans and the implications of borrowing. Ask for tips on cutting your loan costs and where to find more student loan information.