Paying for College: You Don’t Have to Do it Alone

College financial aidIt’s never too early to start thinking about a way to finance college. Students approaching the final semester of their senior year are faced with the responsibility of choosing a university and a major which can seem pretty daunting, not to mention figuring out the finances behind it all.

On average it annually costs Indiana residents $3,000 to attend a community college, $8,000 for public universities and $30,000 to attend private schools.

Luckily there are systems in place that can assist you in paying for postsecondary education. Federal aid is based on need and offered through grants and loans. It’s important to realize the difference between the two, loans need to be paid back, whereas grants do not need repaid. Without receiving assistance students run the risk of accumulating student loan debt which can average anywhere from twenty to thirty-thousand dollars.

The window will soon open for college-bound students looking for assistance. Jan. 1, 2015 is the starting date for submission of the Free Federal Application for Student Financial Aid, or FAFSA. The FAFSA determines how much financial aid schools can award based on a family’s financial situation. The process can be much easier if you get a head start on collecting the required information. Some documents needed include social security numbers, income tax returns and investment statements.

The application deadline is June 30, however experts suggest completion and submission prior to Feb. 15 to avoid missing any deadlines for special scholarship programs. Community colleges charge anywhere between $110 to $160 a credit hour which is far less than public or private school costs, with federal financial assistance that money doesn’t need to come out of your pocket.