TheBestSchools’ College Finances Guide


Updated December 12, 2023 · 4 Min Read is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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The growth in online colleges has made higher education more accessible for distance learners and working professionals. More students pursue higher education now than ever before, but many have also stretched their finances. According to the Federal Reserve, total student debt in the US surpassed $1.7 trillion in 2020 — an increase of more than 100% since 2010.

To relieve stress related to college finances, this guide covers college costs, study and financial aid options, and news that may impact you and your education funding.

Paying for a College Education

Most students can access financial aid, but what funding is available depends on their situation. The pages linked below explore top funding programs and highlight options for different types of students, schools, and programs.

In addition to our general guide on financing your education, we also offer more focused resources on paying for online college, tuition assistance work programs, and financial aid for undocumented students.

Financing Your Education

Paying for Online College

Tuition Assistance

Exploring Your Educational Options

Higher education is not one-size-fits-all. Before choosing a school or program, students need to think about their own situation and find a match that suits them. To help learners identify their ideal educational paths while also keeping an eye on their college finances, we compiled resources on the benefits of community colleges and tuition-free colleges.

The links below can help students learn how to choose a major and a college as well as discover program and school rankings.

Should I Go to Community College?

The Best Colleges Providing Free Tuition

How to Choose Your College Major

How to Choose an Online Degree Program

How to Pick a College

Rankings: How to Use Them

Understanding College Costs

As the cost of higher education rises, students must be selective about schools and costs. If learners only consider tuition prices, they might be surprised when it comes time to handle their college finances.

The following links cover education prices, actual college costs, and online learning expenses. They also explore how students can save money on class materials. Students can use this information to make decisions that support their futures and their wallets.

How Much Does College Really Cost?

Paying for Online College

The Four Types of Financial Aid

Students usually have access to four types of financial aid: scholarships, loans, grants, and work-study programs.

These categories have different eligibility requirements and offerings. For example, scholarships and grants both don't require repayment, but scholarships are typically awarded for academic excellence while grants usually respond to financial need. Loans come from the federal government or lending institutions and do require repayment. Work-study programs offer funding in return for work on campus.

Students can find college finance information in the links below, including resources and tips on financing a college education, financing an online degree, and completing the FAFSA.

Financing a College Education

Financial Aid for Online College

What Is the FAFSA?

Securing Student Loans

For many degree-seekers, securing student loans is the scariest step in college finance. To avoid complications, students should know the differences between private and federal loans. They should also know how to apply for, repay, and defer loans.

Consider these articles on understanding student loans, repaying student loans, the loan application process, and the risks of student loans. Learners can read about these things to avoid problems with their college finances.

What You Should Know About Student Loans

How to Apply for Student Loans

How to Repay Student Loans

Latest News for Students on College Finance

Staying informed about college finances can help students make the best decisions for their financial health. The links below cover news on student loans, which can help students plan for their education.

These links cover the risks of private loans, President Biden's student loan plan, the pandemic's impact on loans, and the student loan crisis. When degree-seekers stay aware, they can better manage their college finances.

Frequently Asked Questions About College Finances

Is It Hard to Get Financial Aid?

No. Most students have access to financial aid, but the application process can take time. Applicants need to determine eligibility and then submit materials for consideration.

Who Is Eligible for Financial Aid in College?

Financial aid eligibility depends on the program. Scholarships may require specific grades or majors, while grants usually award financial need. Student loan and work-study applicants may also need to demonstrate financial need.

Can You Get Financial Aid for Online Degrees?

Yes, students pursuing accredited online degrees usually have access to the same financial aid options as on-campus learners.

Portrait of Doug Wintemute

Doug Wintemute

Doug Wintemute is a Toronto-based freelance writer with professional writing interests in higher learning and entertainment. He completed his BA and MA in English at York University, graduating summa cum laude and earning academic merit, research, and writing awards at both levels. Since 2014, he has contributed content and editorial work for award-winning digital trade publications, global SEO copywriting projects, and hugely popular online brands. He can be contacted through LinkedIn.

Header Image Credit: Peopleimages | Getty Images

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