GOING TO COLLEGE: CAN I STILL AFFORD TO DO THIS? By Anna Helhoski
College is expensive on a good day. When you’re living through a pandemic and a recession, it may feel downright unaffordable. But if you look ahead, college is still a worthwhile investment. Having a college degree typically means hundreds of thousands of dollars more in lifetime earnings. An advanced degree? More than $1 million. Right now “lifetime earnings” are probably not top of mind, but maybe another question is: Can I still afford to do this? Yes, you can. But you’re going to need to get comfortable with the unknown. Your goal will be the same — an education that provides a fulfilling livelihood. But how much you can afford to spend, how much federal aid you’ll get, where you can turn for scholarships and grants, even whether you spend a semester or two learning from home — that’s still a giant question mark. Keep your eyes on the prize, and stay flexible. It’s very likely your circumstances and those of the world around you will shift, and then shift again. The strategy below remains the same. It’s all relative You’re going to see a lot of numbers thrown at you about what you and your family are expected to pay. But you’re the only one who truly knows the real-life amount you can pay now (from your savings or your income) or pay later (by making use of student loans).
Find out those numbers and keep them in mind as you shop for your education. Here’s how to do it.
Look past the sticker price A college’s big sticker price might turn you off: $60,000 a year? But that’s not the real cost. What’s more important is the “net price.” That’s how much you owe after financial aid is factored in. If you compare net prices from a few different schools, you’ll see that public colleges are typically cheaper than private ones. But if you get enough financial aid, the cost could end up being similar.
You can find a net price calculator on every college’s website.
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