Financing

Paying for community college can be overwhelming. Use the tools, resources and tips within this section to help you finance your education. From student loans to scholarships, we’ll cover the most common financial aid options available to community college students. Get money saving tips, learn more about Pell grants, and explore the federal work-study program.
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Community colleges offer a cost-effective means for students to obtain a degree or certificate or complete the first half of studies required for a bachelor’s degree. Because they are so affordable – annual tuition and fees average just under $3,500 – many students do not need to take out student loans in order to pay for their expenses. Some students live at home or take public transit to further lessen costs, while others attend part-time and work so they can avoid taking out loans and instead pay for their schooling out-of-pocket as they go.

However, some students don’t have the luxury of depending on mom and dad for free room and board, money for textbooks, or gas money to get to campus. For those students, the additional costs of attending a community college can add up: When all fees, room and board, and textbooks and supplies are added in, the average annual community college expenses rise to $15,000. Federal student loans provide a lifeline for many students who would not otherwise be able to afford these expenses, minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged populations among them. But for a million students nationwide, federal student loans are not an option because their community college does not participate in the federal student loan program.

Opting Out

At first glance, it may seem counterproductive for a community college not to participate in the federal student loan program. After all, more available financial aid means more students are able to enroll in courses, thus helping that institution’s . . . read more


For many students, community college is the most affordable option for obtaining a higher education. The cost of tuition, fees, room, and board at a two-year institution averages a little over $8,500, while the same expenses for a four-year institution cost nearly double that at just under $17,000 per year. Yet, despite the cost savings, some community college students still need financial assistance to pay for their education. The financial aid application process can present a number of barriers, especially for first-time college students who are unfamiliar with the process. However, these barriers can easily be overcome when armed with the right information.

Always Apply For Aid

Each year, millions of college-bound students apply for federal financial aid. Yet, millions more eligible students don’t apply at all. During the 2011-2012 academic year, an estimated 2 million students who would have qualified for a Federal Pell Grant didn’t even fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Even more surprisingly, approximately two-thirds of those students would have qualified for a full grant award that would have paid for all of their college expenses.

Instead, for a variety of reasons these students did not bother to apply. Nearly half the students who would have qualified for the Pell Grant simply believed they were not eligible for those funds. Another 34 percent reported that they didn’t want to take on debt, even though Pell Grants do not have to be repaid. Many more maintained that they did not have a financial . . . read more


The cost of a college education has risen rapidly over the last three decades. In fact, according to the Bloomberg Report, the overall cost of a college degree has risen a whopping 1,120 percent since 1978. This rate of increase is nearly double that of medical care costs and has outpaced housing costs by threefold. The exorbitant cost of college has many people concerned that higher education is beyond their means, and rightfully so. As a result, many politicians in Washington, D.C., as well as state-level officials, are examining ways they can help curb the exponential growth of college costs in order to make higher education more affordable for more people.

Source: Bloomberg

Ohio Plans to Freeze Tuition
 
For those for whom college is too expensive, some states have launched plans to freeze tuition. In Ohio, House Bill 484 seeks to hold tuition rates steady while students complete their degrees. The guaranteed tuition rate would be good for a specified period of time, most often two or three years. The cost of tuition a student pays in their first year of study would remain constant over his or her tenure at the school, making their college studies more affordable and increasing the likelihood that they will stay in school and graduate.
 
Supporters of House Bill 484 maintain that the program will encourage more first-time students to enter college and obtain a degree. Additionally, they argue that more students will enroll full-time, thus shortening the timeline to . . . read more

It’s no secret that Americans are lagging behind other industrialized nations in terms of attaining a post-secondary degree. Losing the brain battle is concerning in and of itself, however, many politicians are also concerned about a workforce that may not have the necessary knowledge and skills to compete in the global market. To address this issue, legislators in some states are proposing plans that would make tuition at public community colleges free for all students, regardless of income.
 
Advantages of Zero-Tuition Programs
 
Clearly, free tuition makes college much more affordable for students. At a time when college tuition costs are higher than ever, being able to take advantage of such savings could encourage untold numbers of college hopefuls to enroll in classes at their local community college. Of course, with a college education comes improved knowledge, an expanded skillset, and better marketability for jobs.
 
Additionally, getting young people to go to college is a means to reverse the trend of income inequality in this country. With more and more of the nation’s wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, getting a college degree can help improve the economic situation of millions of young people that are the future of this country’s workforce. The better educated they are and the more skills they have, the more in-demand they will be and the more money they will make. As a result, upward mobility becomes much easier and the middle class expands.

 
Furthermore, providing a tuition-free education addresses, . . . read more

Student loan debt statistics continue to shock. Just two years ago, the average student loan debt in America was estimated at about $27,000. Now, a recent study from Fidelity Investments reveals that 70 percent of students who graduated college in 2013 borrowed money from various federal, state, and private sources to help pay for their education. And they left school with an average debt of $35,200. That's a 35 percent increase.

The Fidelity study also found that 50 percent of those 2013 graduates who had taken out student loans expressed surprise by just how much debt they had accumulated. That's another shocking statistic that clearly demonstrates just how difficult it is for many college-age students to visualize what their lives will be like when the borrowing phase of their student loans is over and the dreaded repayment phase begins. And that's not a good place to be.

The bottom line is that student loans are not optional arrangements between you and your lenders. They have to be repaid. They cannot be ignored or put off and federal law stipulates that they cannot even be discharged via bankruptcy. If you default on your student loans you can have your tax refunds intercepted, a portion of your wages garnished, judgments or lawsuits issued against you or collection fees added to your loan balances – not to mention harassing calls and tactics from aggressive creditors.

That's why it's absolutely critical that if you are a student loan borrower, you learn how to manage . . . read more
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Financing

Financing Basics

Build the foundation needed to navigate the community college financial aid system. Learn which schools are the most affordable, get money tips on reducing college costs, and explore the latest initiatives to make community colleges even more accessible.

Tuition

This section will help you prepare for the costs of attending community college and any future increases. Explore pricing plans, learn where you may be able to attend community college tuition-free, and examine the latest initiatives to make higher education more affordable.

Financial Aid

Our articles will provide you with the tools and resources needed to make sure you are qualifying for all the financial aid available, as well as maintaining your aid throughout your college career. Get the latest news on student loan interest rates, learn what to do when your financial aid is late, and explore all of your financial aid options.

Saving Money

This section is full of money saving tips for community college students. From free textbooks to finding affordable childcare, we’ll provide you with a wealth of information on keeping college affordable.

Grants & Scholarships

There's nothing better than free money, and these articles can help you get grants and scholarships for your community college education. Acquire information on Pell grants and why you should take advantage of them, learn how you can earn money through community college writing and get the latest news on scholarships and funding.