Watching Your Wallet: How to pay for rising college costs

Apply for federal aid every year, not just as a freshman
Published: Jun. 16, 2022 at 3:59 PM EDT
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InvestigateTV - Around 1.3 million high school graduates are expected to enroll in a four-year university in 2022 and 42% of those students are expected to take on student loans, according to a new study by NerdWallet.

Elizabeth Renter, a data analyst with the company, said $39,500 is what a graduating senior could borrow in pursuit of their bachelor’s degree over the next four years.

“What’s important to note is this is a conservative estimate,” Renter said. “We looked only at public four-year universities, which are generally more affordable than private institutions. We based this estimate on what students are taking out right now, which isn’t the entire cost of attendance.”

She said each year all students should fill out FAFSA, the free application for federal student aid. Renter said FAFSA opens the door to not only federal grants and student loans, but many states and institutions use this data to determine additional potential aid.

“Grants and scholarships are free money,” Renter said. “They don’t come with interest, you don’t have to pay them back, so they’re definitely a priority when it comes to scholarships.”

She said your applications shouldn’t stop freshman year.

“Also, upperclassmen should remember that they need to keep looking, too,” Renter said. “There are often scholarships for sophomores, juniors, and seniors.”

She said if you need student loans, look at federal student loan options first over private loans and explore federal work study options as well. Your FAFSA application will ask if you’re interested in the program.

The FAFSA application period opens on October 1st for the coming school year and is open now for the 2022 - 2023 college year.