The grumblings over the rising cost of college education are not without reason. According to College Board's annual survey on Trends in College Pricing, the average total tuition and fees paid by students at four-year public colleges and universities in 2006-07 was $5,836, while the average total tuition and fees at private colleges and universities was $22,218 for the same period. (collegeboard.com/prod_downloads/press/cost06/trends_college_pricing_06.pdf)
The bad news is that tuition fees are just the tip of the iceberg, as it constitutes only a fraction of the overall cost of college. The expense shoots up several notches if you add room and board to the total cost of attending college.
There are several other factors that can make college a financial burden for many. One of the biggest factors is juggling several responsibilities with education that prolongs graduation time for many students and adds to the overall cost.
But the good news is that help is available in the form of financial aid for college, especially if you're among those whose parents did not have the means to save money for college and have to depend on loans to finance higher education.
In fact, a lot of people delay going to college until they have built some savings to avoid taking loans. While it's admirable on their part to save up for college, there's a high probability that such individuals would never be able to go back to school as they get embroiled in the nitty-gritty of life.
College Financial Aid
If you want to graduate from college debt free or at least reduce it to the maximum extent possible, then it's important to explore all avenues of college financial aid. According to the College Board survey, full-time students of private four-year institutions receive an average of $9,000 of aid per year in the form of grants and tax benefits, whereas those enrolled in public four-year institutions receive $3,100 as financial aid for college. (collegeboard.com/prod_downloads/press/cost06/trends_college_pricing_06.pdf)
If this data is any indication, then grants play a very important role in helping students fund their education. Unlike loans that have to be paid back by students once they start earning, money for college provided by grants generally does not have to be repaid. These grants are primarily need-based or awarded on the basis of students meeting certain eligibility criteria.
A case in point is the Pell Grant, which is one of the most popular federal grants. The Pell Grant is awarded to undergraduate students who come from low-income backgrounds. The Academic Competitiveness Grant is also a federal grant available to undergrad freshman and sophomore students who demonstrate academic excellence and a propensity towards leadership and service.
In addition to these federal grants, several states also offer grants to students based on need, merit, or their chosen major. There are also other grants that are constituted especially for students belonging to certain ethnic or disadvantaged groups such as African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, etc. These grants could be administered by the government, universities and colleges, or ethnic organizations.