Dollars and Cents: Choosing Cost-Effective Higher Education

If you don’t want to pay upward of $50,000 to $100,000 for a college education, or if you’re worried about the affordability of higher education, just turn the corner to your neighborhood community college. In an effort to solve the dilemma of finding cost-effective education, community colleges offer degree programs and cocurricular options to enhance your career in a cost-friendly manner.

Community colleges were first created with the intention of providing an educational system for the local community at an affordable price. Although community colleges are adding more aspects of the traditional university, the cost remains much lower than that of public and private four-year schools. On average, community college tuition is approximately half that of the typical four-year public institution.

Help Is Available

Just because you’re beginning your higher education career at a community college doesn’t mean that you’re not eligible for the typical federal financial aid programs that the government has set in place. Every year, beginning with your senior year of high school, you’ll need to file the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). This form will show you how much money (based on your household income) that you’re eligible to receive in grants and loans. Grants are a great way to fund your education because you don’t have to pay them back. Grants are similar to scholarships in this respect, though they’re typically based on need instead of merit.

If you’re planning to work during your college years, look for positions on campus that are classified as work-study jobs. If you can land one of these positions, your hourly pay can be used to pay your tuition bill; every little bit helps.

One main idea to remember when paying for college is that the higher your grades are, the less you’ll pay: keeping your grades up will help you qualify for more scholarships. Since many community colleges are smaller proportionally to public institutions in size, they tend to offer many scholarships to students.

Go to the Source

Once accepted to a community college, go to the financial aid office’s Web site. This site is a great guide for all of your financial needs. It will show you when important deadlines are and might even lead you to outside scholarship sources. When all else fails, stop over to meet your financial aid officer. This person will more often than not be designated to you throughout your time at that specific institution. Your financial aid officer will be able to show you the most cost-effective way to pay for your education.


This article was written by Megan O’Leary-Buda

Megan O’Leary-Buda holds a master’s degree in higher education administration from The University of Akron. She works at Quinnipiac University as the assistant director of residential life.

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