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Future Planning: 10 Ways to Pay for College

With college costs so high, take time to figure out how you will pay for your education.

Chris Scott

Contributing Writer at Tally

May 6, 2022

Paying for your education is no small task. A recent study found that the average cost of college is $35,331 per student annually,  which includes tuition, books, supplies and other required living expenses.

Fortunately, with some research, you may be able to find different ways to help offset the cost of education. This article will cover ten ways to pay for higher education.

Filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid

When considering different ways to pay for college, filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a great starting point. Many options on the list require you to have a FAFSA application on file, and completing this form opens up different avenues for financial aid.

Once you complete your FAFSA form, you can apply for student aid from your school’s financial aid office. This aid is based on your financial needs and isn’t merit-based.

When you apply, you may receive a list of different federal financial aid offers and packages. Compare these offers to determine what you want to accept. Options that you may receive include:

  • Grants

  • Work-study programs

  • Loans

We’ll explore these options more in-depth below.

Using grants to pay for school

If you’re eligible for a grant, consider using this as a way to pay for college. The federal government’s grant program offers free money and doesn’t require repayment if you meet certain stipulations. 

Examples of the types of grants offered by the government include:

  • Federal Pell Grants

  • Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants

  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG)

  • Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants

You may also be able to find grants offered by your college, state or a private institution. It may take some research, but because you don’t have to worry about lenders or interest rates, any grant can help lower your cost of attendance.

Taking advantage of a Work-study program

Another type of financial aid award you may receive is an invitation to a Federal Work-Study program. Under this program, you’ll be employed in a Work-study job on campus in exchange for grant money. Under this program, college students typically work part-time jobs. 

The grant money is treated as an untaxed wage, and you won’t need to repay the funds you receive. The funds you’ll receive under this program are minimal compared to some of the other options on this list and are often slated for expenses like books, not college tuition. 

Utilizing student loans

Your financial aid package will also likely include an offer for federal student loans. If you choose this option, you should keep in mind that these loans need to be paid back with interest. The interest on the loan also compounds, making future repayment challenging.

Take time to learn about the different types of student loans (i.e., subsidized loans vs. unsubsidized loans) and how student loan interest works before deciding to go this route. You can also consider looking into private student loan options.

Applying for scholarships

There are many scholarships available from:

  • Schools

  • Companies

  • Organizations 

  • Nonprofits

Scholarships exist for everything from academic merit to a specific area of study. Kickstart the scholarship search with the help of your college’s financial aid office or high school guidance counselor. You’ll likely need to fill out an application for each scholarship. 

If you’re awarded a scholarship, you won’t have to worry about making monthly payments to a lender to repay the money. However, scholarships may come with requirements to remain eligible for the money, such as being a full-time student or maintaining a certain GPA.

Utilizing state government

Depending on where you live, your state may offer financial aid. TheU.S. Department of Education has a list of state contacts that you can use to find the type of aid you’re looking for. 

Note that you may only be eligible for aid in the state in which you live. For instance, if you live in Massachusetts but plan to attend school in New Hampshire, you may only be allowed to apply for aid in Massachusetts.

Leaning on your guardians for assistance

You can pay for college without parents. If they can help with your education expenses, you’ll avoid taking on student loan debt. Any extra money could keep you out of debt.

Similarly, check if your parents have established a college savings plan, or 529 plan, on your behalf. 

Lastly, if your parents claim you as a dependent and pay for eligible expenses, they may be able to claim a $2,500 tax credit under the American Opportunity Tax Credit program. The credit is per year, per child, and could incentivize your parents to pay for some of your expenses. 


Considering community college

Enrollment in a community college is an excellent option if you want an associate’s degree or professional certification. After taking coursework at a community college, you could also transfer to a four-year institution to complete your bachelor’s degree. 

The cost of community college is considerably more affordable than a four-year school. Some states, like Maryland, even offer free community college based on eligibility.

Working a full-time job

Another way to pay for college is with a full-time job. Doing so requires a lot of time management. 

You can set up classes to fit your schedule, perhaps taking courses at night. Similarly, you can ask your employer about tuition reimbursement. However, there may be tax implications when doing so, depending on how much money your employer offers for tuition.

Saving money ahead of time

If you have flexibility on when you can go to school, consider deferment until you have enough cash to fund your schooling or at least a portion of it. You can put your money in a high-yield savings account to grow. 

Even if you can’t cover all of your college costs, saving ahead of time may reduce your need for student loans, saving you money in the long run.

Using these different ways to pay for college to manage your finances

College can be expensive. With a bit of creativity, you can figure out ways to help cut down on the cost. Our list of 10 ways to pay for college is one place to start. 

Though not all of these ideas may apply to your financial situation, implementing just a few of them can help you fund your education.

Something else to consider is your existing debt. If you have debt with high interest rates, like credit card debt, this may challenge your ability to pay for college.

If you’re looking for ways to manage your existing credit card debt, consider Tally†. Tally is a credit card payoff app designed to help manage your due dates and pay down your balances with a lower-interest line of credit. Using Tally could potentially free up cash that you need to reach other financial goals, like paying for a college education.

To get the benefits of a Tally line of credit, you must qualify for and accept a Tally line of credit. The APR (which is the same as your interest rate) will be between 7.90% and 29.99% per year and will be based on your credit history. The APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Annual fees range from $0 - $300.