How to Afford College: There Are More Options Than You Think!

Want to continue your education but struggling to figure out how to afford college? It’s a common hurdle for most students, especially those who want to ensure that their investment will pay off with a fulfilling career. With tuition and inflation rising, what are your options for continuing your education at an affordable price?

Fortunately, you have several avenues to choose from to make college more affordable — starting with need-based financial aid, which is designed specifically for students based on their financial needs. Here, we’ll break down the different ways to make college more affordable and explore the benefits of and qualifications for need-based financial aid.

There are more ways to afford college than you may think

College can be a significant investment, but there are ways to make it more affordable no matter your financial situation. As you navigate budgets and tuition costs, consider these options to reduce the price tag:

  • Apply for scholarships and grants: Earn full or partial financial support with scholarships and grants that are awarded based on merit, need, and other criteria.
  • Take out student loans: Federal and private student loans are available to help cover college expenses, but you are expected to pay them back after graduation — so be sure to review all the details to find the right options for your needs. 
  • Explore tuition reimbursement programs: If you plan to be a working student, some employers offer tuition reimbursement programs that can help pay for school while you gain work experience.  

These are some of your options, but for now, we’ll focus on need-based financial aid as a key way to provide some support in terms of tuition and expenses.

So what is need-based financial aid?

Need-based financial aid is exactly what it sounds like: financial aid awarded to students based on their financial needs and circumstances. 

Several factors go into determining if you qualify for this kind of aid, including your or your family’s income, assets, and expenses, as well as the tuition of the college or university you’d like to attend. A specific formula uses that information to calculate how much you can be awarded based on your specific situation. 

Curious to find out how much you may be eligible for? Use our Net Price Calculator as a starting point for your planning

Fun Fact: Need-based financial aid comes in multiple forms

Think need-based financial aid is one size fits all? Not so! There are several kinds of need-based financial aid options available to explore, including:

  • Federal, State, and University Grants: These are sources of financial aid that are provided by the government or the school you’re attending, and they don’t have to be paid back.

  • Need-Based Scholarships: Specifically for students that come from low-income households, need-based scholarships are another type of aid that you don’t have to repay.

  • Work-Study Programs: This option enables you and other undergraduates to pay for college through a part-time work-study job, which may be granted by your school, a private organization, or a government institution.
  • Direct Subsidized Loans: Unlike unsubsidized loans, the government covers the accrued interest for these loans while you’re in school (but you do have to pay it back once you’re below half-time status or after you graduate). 

While researching your options for how to afford college, be sure to review the criteria for the grants, scholarships, programs, or loans you’re applying for. Each comes with its own set of requirements or instructions depending on the institution or organization offering them, and it’s important to understand the terms and conditions (and if you’re even eligible) so you know exactly what you’re applying for. 

How do you know if you’re eligible for need-based financial aid?

The first step in finding out if you’re eligible for need-based financial aid is filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form collects all necessary details about you and your family’s financial situation so that financial aid offices can determine your eligibility for federal, state, and institutional programs.

Remember that eligibility for need-based financial aid to afford college varies from school to school and depends on what state or federal funds are available. So, be sure to check with the financial aid office at each college or university you’re applying to for the details about eligibility and available financial aid. 

Explore need-based financial options at Thomas College

We believe in our students and what they can achieve, which is why we offer multiple ways to make college more affordable — including need-based financial aid. Explore the different options available and contact our financial aid office to start planning the next steps for your future.