College is more expensive than ever. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average total cost of college has more than doubled since 1982. And it’s not just the price of tuition that’s gone up; the price of textbooks, associated supplies, and student housing has gone up as well. At some schools the price of housing is as or more expensive than the tuition! For a college student who wants to focus on studies, balancing study time with time required to work to pay for expenses can be an overbearing task. Fortunately there are more options than working three jobs on top of a full time schedule.
How to lower the cost of college
Many students and their parents don’t realize that housing costs are considered in financial aid packages. A student’s overall cost of attendance, such as whether he or she is living on campus or off and what other expenses the student has are taken into account. This is why federal aid packages are often higher than the tuition bill alone: the government expects that the student will take out enough to pay for a portion of the cost of attendance.
If you’re concerned about costs, financial aid is one readily available option at your disposal. Federal aid packages generally include a mix of grants, loans, and work study hours. To get started, submit a Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) application and provide information about your income, your family’s income (if a dependent student), and about the school or schools you want to attend.
The information will be used to calculate a Cost of Attendance (COA) as well as the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). These numbers then translate into a federal aid package appropriate for your situation. This package should include enough to cover a portion of the student’s living expenses.
Private loans are another option for paying for living expenses. While not a first choice, they are an option available for students. Private loans also rely on the FAFSA and enrollment data and exist to fill in the gap between the federal aid package and the actual need.
To apply, visit a lender of your choice such as a private bank or the credit union you bank with. Each lender will have their own requirements for credit-worthiness and may require a co-signer in order to receive funds. Keep in mind that there are fewer consumer protections with private loans and so deferment and repayment opportunities are more stringent than for federal loans.
Off-campus housing is another alternative to addressing the high cost of living expenses on campus. Off-campus housing can often be found at cheaper rates than those on campus. If you can commute even a little, you can find affordable housing that might better fit into your budget. Combine that savings with a roommate to boost the financial gain and provide security to students not yet used to living alone.
To find an apartment, start your search by soliciting advice from friends and family. They’ll tell you honestly what areas are good and bad, what the rates and neighborhoods are like and what areas to avoid. After that, read local classifieds for urgent openings that might come with an associated reduction in rent or deposit fees.
Once you’ve found an apartment you like, talk to the leasing office and ask for a tour. Fill out a rental application and pay the appropriate application fees. You may need to provide pay stubs, an employment history, and references.
If you are going to use a student loan for your expenses, be sure to tell them upfront before applying and ensure that they accept such arrangements. If you don’t, they may deny your application for lack of income. If you’d like professional assistance, talk to a professional who knows the areas you’re looking to rent in. Agents such as those at www.slaterhogg.co.uk can help for those looking in the UK market.
Keep in mind that any loans you take out are not free money. They are financial loans that come with an obligation to repay. Unlike mortgage or auto loans, a student loan cannot be defaulted on or removed in bankruptcy, so be careful about how much you borrow. Borrow only what you need and find cost-saving solutions where possible. If you need help with knowing what to borrow or how to reduce costs, talk to your college’s financial advisors. They can point you toward resources that might otherwise be unavailable to you.