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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During times of political change, economic uncertainty, and fluctuating levels of job security, students of all ages are facing an array of personal and academic pressures. Many community college students and applicants are trying to cope with the mounting educational costs paired with added stresses of job loss, reduced wages, or soaring costs of living. 
  
As many college applicants are struggling to find ways to pay for higher education expenses during economic tumultuousness, community college leaders across the country are seeking out new forms of financial aid to provide students with a greater scaffold of fiscal support.    
 
Recent Financial Aid Reforms
 
In just the past several years, enormous changes have been made to the federal financial aid program, as struggling college students expressed with rising voices the difficulty of paying for the costs of college with limited access to money or means. 
 
According to Art Hauptman from the Progressive Policy Institute, there was an initial jump-start to increasing federal student aid funding in 2005, when former President Bush renewed the “Higher Education Act.” With this act, the President proposed an increase to the Pell grant of $500 over the course of five subsequent years. As Pell grants were initially created to raise educational aspirations of socially and economically struggling Americans, many believe that the Pell grant increase would stimulate a boost in college accessibility and enrollment. Despite this positive reform, however, Hauptman asserts that additional revisions must be put into action. As Hauptman further asserts, political and school leaders should usher in . . . read more

Due to the financial challenges incoming students face, many local and state leaders are advocating for tuition-free community college programs. As community colleges strive to provide local residents with programs for certification, degrees, and training, many community leaders argue that tuition-free programs will help students to more effectively prepare for the job market without being subjected to excessive educational costs during difficult economic times.
 
The Tuition-Free Debate
 
As Diverse Community College reveals in their investigation, the county majors of both Knoxville and Memphis assert that residents of their communities should have access to free public education at local community colleges. Mayors A.C. Wharton and Mike Ragsdale of local Tennessee counties argue that, in utilizing the resources of scholarships and grants that are currently available, local community colleges can shift their current programs to create tuition free pathways for incoming and current students. As Tennessee, along with most states across the country, are struggling with job losses and a struggling economy, Wharton argues that the shift for tuition-free programs is Tennessee’s attempt at creating a more effective and prepared work force: “‘We want to blast our way into being able to produce a world-class work force. You can't do that with merely a high school diploma.’”
 
By collaborating with community college and local political leaders, the Tennessee mayors are working to establish a proposal that will provide residents with tuition-free access to higher education. As the leaders describe, “The community college program, as envisioned, would provide public and . . . read more

Many community college students juggle various personal responsibilities along with their academic requirements. Specifically, many community college students have young children and families to care for and support. Recognizing the importance of family and the lack of quality, affordable childcare in some cities, community colleges are implementing programs to offer support for their student-parents.
 
Community Colleges and Financial Support
 
Many state and local governments provide student-parents with financial aid, grants, and support, depending upon each student’s needs and family dynamic. For example, students at Wake Tech Community College can apply for the Childcare Grant. To be eligible, student-parents must demonstrate high financial need and be able to qualify for the federal Pell Grant. Additionally, they must be a single parent or a stay-at-home parent who is returning to school.

If awarded the grant, the student-parent will receive $650 per month to pay for childcare services. To maintain eligibility, student-parents must adhere to the following regulations:

  • Maintain at least a 2.0 GPA.
  • Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and be eligible for the Pell Grant.
  • Must be enrolled in a degree, diploma, or transfer credit program.
  • Submit monthly attendance sheets documenting class attendance.

By following these guidelines, students can focus on their coursework and not have to worry about the financial strain of paying for childcare.
 
Am I Eligible for the Childcare Grant?
 
As Wake Tech explains, “Funds for the Childcare Grant are limited and eligibility standards will be strictly observed. Students with the greatest need will be served first.” According to reports, . . . read more

Stafford loans are made under two federal programs: the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program and the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program. Whereas the FFEL Program has been more widely used by community colleges in the past, students and colleges are becoming more aware of the Direct Loan Program as another option. This article explains the Direct Loan Program, shows how Direct Loans compare to other Stafford loans, and discusses how the Direct Loan program may become the dominant, if not exclusive, college lending program.
 
Note: For an overall view of college assistance, see Community College Loans and Affording Community College.

What Students Should Know About Direct Loans
 
The Direct Loan Program was created in 1993 to offer both subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans. Under the Direct Loan Program, students borrow directly from the Department of Education rather than from private lenders. On a subsidized loan, the federal government pays the interest while the student is in school. The interest on an unsubsidized loan is accumulated until the student begins repaying the loan. The Direct Loan Program also offers PLUS (Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students) loans.
 
To apply for a Direct Loan, a student must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is available online or at student financial aid offices. A student must also sign a promissory note, the Direct Loan Electronic Master Promissory Note, which sets forth the terms and conditions of the loan.
 
Prior to June 30, 2006, the interest rate varied, but . . . read more

According to recent press release from the College Board, the cost of college courses during the 2008-2009 school year did not rise faster than the Consumer Price Index. As reporter Kim Clark from the US News and Report reports, “In the academic year starting in the fall of 2008, for the first time in six years, most college prices rose by less than inflation. Even better: After subtracting out the typical amount of scholarships and tax breaks, the average community college student paid only $101 for a year's worth of classes, down from $122 last year.” 
 
Although the dwindling economy poses new struggles for academic institutions and students, the silver lining may be seen more clearly as the analysis of tuition hikes and the rate of inflation is evaluated. 
 
How to Handle Potential Tuition Increases
 
Investigating Reports
 
Although the rise in college costs poses challenges to students and families, Gaston Caperton, the College Board President, asserts that understanding “information in the trends reports will help families to make better educational decisions.” As Gaston further reveals, “‘A college education is the passport to opportunity and success in today’s global economy. In this time of financial uncertainty, it is essential that students and families have the most up-to-date information on the true costs associated with making this important investment in their future.’” 
 
Caperton advocates that families should review and evaluate information in the College Board publication “Trends in College Pricing 2008,” as the trends report will help inform individuals and families with greater details regarding issues of higher . . . 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.