Yes. College is expensive. No. It’s not out of reach. Let’s look at an example.
The University of Maine at Farmington: list price for tuition, room and board, and extras next year, $21,182. Sticker shock! (All costs are estimates, kindly provided by Farmington’s Financial Aid Office.) But a few students pay this amount.
Assume that, like many of us, your family makes ends meet, but only just. Assisted by high school guidance, you’ve filed your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Farmington’s staff will calculate the actual cost to you.
Aid you needn’t repay is great. Federal and state governments provide $9,195 (Pell Grant, etc.) Assuming you did well in high school, the university’s Merit Scholarship adds $3,000; Oxford County residents get $2,000 towards room and board. Total, $14,195.
You can borrow $5,500 per year with federal backing; 3.73%, ten-year term, a pretty good deal. Total aid, $19, 639 (there’s a small loan fee). Farmington bills you $1,543. But the university will pay you to work for them – $2,500 per year – you with $900 towards the cost leaving of books, coffee, pizza…
Next, it’s time to think about two aspects of finance: increasing your cash in hand and reducing your future debt. Summer employment opportunities look good. Ten weeks of employment can work wonders for the budget.
Perhaps you saved something through high school; perhaps there were graduation presents; modest family contributions won’t affect your aid entitlement.
Scholarships and prizes: advised by your high school, directed to various helpful websites, you’ve competed and applied. Doing well once you reach Farmington can also pay. There are scholarships for high-performing students; various awards for people specializing in particular fields. The financial aid office will happily advise; it’s what they do.
Avoid excessive employment in term. High grades pay better, and time for recreation is important: theater, music, art, sports, politics, student government … trying new things is an important aspect of college.
Your goal is to borrow less than $5,500 per year, and especially to avoid other loans with more onerous terms. Savings, scholarships, prizes, employment: whittle your future debt down to $15,000 or even $10,000, find a job (the university will help), and you’re in pretty good shape.
David R Jones went to college when it was (relatively) cheap.