Pursuing a higher education
It’s no secret that college and grad school can be expensive. The good news is there are lots of options to help keep your higher education dream a reality.
Do your homework
Few have the luxury of paying for a higher education without some sort of financial assistance. With some research and a little time invested, you can set yourself up for "doable" post-graduate debt.
- Where do you want to go? Higher education comes in many forms and so do the costs. Public, private, online, in-person, 2-year and 4-year institutions all offer quality educations. Don’t overlook any avenues. Talk with family, friends, guidance counselors and visit college fairs.
- What can you afford? Make that list! Tuition, on- and off-campus housing, food, clothing, books, transportation, entertainment and emergencies. Be conservative; figure out what you can afford with no financial aid so that you have a realistic idea of where you’re starting from.
- Explore “free” money. Scholarships and grants are a great place to start. Check out Scholarships.com for opportunities for financial aid that you don’t have to pay back. If you’re already working and want to go back to school, see if your employer offers a program where they pay upfront or reimburse you later. For those who choose to serve, the military offers some wonderful options – see if the school of your choice has ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps).
- Financial aid resources. Along with applying for aid through the financial offices at your desired schools, make sure you visit the Department of Education’s FAFSA.gov. It's a national registry that can provide a plethora of aid options and it’s free!
- Student loan vs. personal loan. Student loans traditionally offer lower interest rates than a personal loan. Plus, student loans defer loan payments and don’t accrue interest until after you graduate.
- 529 plans. You may look at your little one and think there’s plenty of time to save for a higher education but planning early is never a bad move. A 529 plan offers tax-advantages, can be opened with a minimal amount and is a wonderful option for any family or friends who want to make contributions in lieu of birthday and special occasion gifts.
Savings options for higher ed costs
Maximizing your money
You've been accepted! Now what?
The cost of a higher education doesn’t end with freshman orientation. Try some of these tips to keep your finances in check.
Saving while studying
- Student accounts come with perks. Our student checking1 account comes with benefits like a low minimum opening deposit no minimum balance, free for five years after opening and more.
- Flash that card. Many places offer discounted student rates with proof of student ID.
- Buy used or go online. Textbooks are expensive and most students sell back their books. If you don’t mind a few notes or pre-highlighted pages, you can save money purchasing used textbooks instead of new. eBooks also offer tremendous savings – sometimes hundreds of dollars less than traditional textbooks.
- Work-Study programs. These on- and off-campus jobs are a great way for financial aid that you don't have to pay back and although highly-coveted, don't have the same competition as grants and scholarships. Check with your Financial Aid office for more info.
- Credit cards for better or worse. Your first credit card can help you begin your credit history BUT you don’t want to fall into the easy habit of charging everything. That morning latte may seem innocent but one a day for a month can add up and now you’re also paying interest. College grads get lots of offers for cards; look them over, get the one with the best rates and whenever possible, pay off the balance at the end of the month instead of just the minimum. It’s a great way to start establishing that credit history.