The cost of a college education can rival the cost of buying a home, but the good news is that there are lots of different ways to pay for college – and not all of them involve money coming out of your own pockets. Whether college is several years away or just around the corner, there are several ways you can prepare yourself and your family financially.

Tuition Skills 101

Start saving early. A 529 savings plan and other investments can help your funding build over time.

Make FAFSA your friend. This form can help you see if qualify for grants and other types of financial aid.

Research your options. Grants, scholarships, work study, loans, tax credits – there are lots of ways to reach your goal.

Funding Education Expenses

If you look at the sticker price (tuition + room and board) for most colleges, it can give you quite a shock. The good news is that you might not have to pay all of it out of pocket. Grants, scholarships and work study programs are all ways to pay for college without paying for college. Sometimes you can even negotiate with a school’s financial aid department to increase what they’re willing to cover for you.

So what about the money you do have to come up with? Start by maximizing your use of federal student loans since they tend to offer low interest rates and flexible repayment options. Then look at the private loan options that are available to you. In addition to considering a private education loan, options like personal loans and home equity loans can help you and your family put college within reach.

Calculators

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