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.
View the most popular articles in Financing:
While Community Colleges Struggle, More Federal Subsidies Pour into For-Profits
What's happening to financial aid for students at community colleges? Students at for-profit colleges are now getting a bigger piece of the federal student aid pie.
The United States is facing a debt crisis of epic proportions, but it may not be in the area consumers would suspect. Huffington Post cites statistics from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York that show student debt has now surpassed credit card debt in this country. It is no wonder that media is literally littered with reports of student debt defaults today. To make matters worse, the source of student debt is no longer community colleges and four-year public institutions. Instead, that debt is going directly to for-profit schools that charge students plenty in tuition rates, but deliver little in return.

The numbers are concerning, considering that community colleges – the schools that President Obama has touted as the training grounds for our future workforce – are scrambling to try to make ends meet. As more people head to these public institutions in hopes of getting applicable training for recession-proof, lucrative careers, the schools are finding themselves without the necessary resources to teach everyone who wants to be educated. Services and programs have been cut, and wait lists for popular courses are becoming longer and longer. State and federal funding is slim at these schools today.
 
For-Profits Enjoy Prosperity
 
This is not the case with for-profit colleges. Institutions like the University of Phoenix and ITT Technical Institute are enjoying significant prosperity these days, as they take a bigger piece of the federal funding pie through student loans courtesy of Uncle Sam. Floyd Norris of
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Santa Monica College Introduces Two-Tier Pricing for Popular Classes
A new policy by Santa Monica College will charge higher prices for in-demand classes – more than four times the standard tuition rate! Scholarships are already being set up for low-income students to help them pay for those classes.
Photo Credit: Santa Monica College
Community colleges across the country have been faced with serious budget cuts that have forced them to make difficult decisions regarding the best ways to serve their students. In the case of Santa Monica College, a proposal to change the pricing structure of certain classes has been met with both applause and protest. Should community colleges be able to charge different prices for their more popular courses? Santa Monica is dealing with that issue right now.

Program Completion Delayed Due to Insufficient Course Offerings
 
According to a report at FOX News, Santa Monica College has been forced to reduce class offerings over the past three years, due to significant California budget cuts that have left the school, like others around the country, scrambling to find enough resources to adequately meet student need. Unfortunately, the practice of cutting classes has left many students in a serious bind. Students who were poised to complete degree programs or transfer to a four-year university have not been able to get the core classes they need to complete their requirements.
 
“Demand is huge across the board,” Bruce Smith, a spokesman for Santa Monica College, told FOX News. “The question is can we continue to keep cutting and cutting classes. It’s pretty devastating.”
 
Since budget woes began for community colleges in 2008, Santa Monica has been forced to cut 1,100 of its 7,430 classes. This means students are not able to schedule the courses they need to graduate in a timely fashion. In some cases,
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Wealthier Students Taking Community College Path
A recent study by Sallie Mae shows that many of the families choosing community college for their students today are in income brackets over $100,000. We’ll explore possible reasons for the demographic change.
The face of the community college student appears to be changing in more ways than one, as a slow economy and skyrocketing tuition rates at four-year schools have begun to take their toll. A recent study by student loan provider Sallie Mae found that more students from high-income families are moving to community college right out of high school, thanks to lower tuition costs and better career options. It also seems that the attitude toward community college education is improving, as more students see this path as a viable option to a bright future.

The Changing Demographic
 
The report on the Sallie Mae website, titled, “How America Pays for College 2011,” explains that in the past four years, many families across the country and from all income brackets have shifted from four-year institutions to two-year community colleges. This shift could be a factor in why middle- and high-income families have been able to reduce education costs and take less money from income and savings to pay the price for higher education.
 
The study found that during the 2009-2010 academic year, 12 percent of high-income families (families making $100,000 or more) sent students to two-year colleges. The following school year, that percentage went up to 22 percent. That increase correlates with a drop in four-year college enrollment during the same time frame, which shifted from 56 percent during the 2009-2010 school year, to just 48 percent the following year. This group also reported paying 18 percent less
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The FAFSA deadline is fast approaching and many community colleges are offering workshops and other types of assistance to help students get the financial aid necessary to head to college next year.
The deadline for submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is looming, and colleges across the country are offering assistance with financial aid paperwork. This basic form, which is the first step in gaining grants or loans from the federal government, have helped many students pay for the rising costs of higher education. For those with questions about the FAFSA, answers may be as close as their local community college.

What is FAFSA?
 
The FAFSA is the first step in the financial aid process, whether students are looking for federal or state assistance. According to a report at the Rhode Show, this mother of all financial aid forms allows the federal government to determine a student’s eligibility for financial aid. The states also use the paperwork to determine whether students qualify for loans or grants at the state level. Colleges and universities use the information on the FAFSA to get an idea of just how much financial aid a student might need to attend a specific school.
 
The FAFSA opens the door to a variety of financial aid options, including the popular Stafford loans and grad PLUS loans. Student loans like these are preferable to private loans for most students because they come with low interest rates and an array of consumer protections and benefits. One of the most attractive features of some of these loans is an Income-Based Repayment Plan that allows students to pay off balances in increments they can afford once they graduate
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Many community college students provide tax help during these months, through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. We’ll highlight some of the schools where these services are available.
April may still seem like a long way off, but it’s not too soon for many Americans to begin thinking about filing their tax returns. Tax preparation can be a complex business, and not everyone can afford to hire the services of a CPA to help them with the process. The good news is that help is available for those who cannot afford professional assistance, and it may be as close as your neighborhood community college. By enlisting the help of a college student who is majoring in the accounting field, you can get expert advice without paying a fortune for the service.

About VITA
 
Tax assistance at the local community college is generally offered through the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, also known as VITA. According to the IRS website, this program is available to anyone who earns $50,000 or less and requires assistance filing their tax returns. The volunteers that work with VITA are trained in IRS guidelines and are IRS certified to offer tax advice on issues such as earned income tax credit, child tax credits and other tax deductions.
 
Those that work on the community college campus are often accounting students from the school, but other volunteers may be working in that particular office as well. Many of this year’s VITA programs are already up and running, allowing many who qualify for the services a head start on this year’s tax return. Many offices provide free electronic filing, so those that use their services can
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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.