Paying for college

Attending college is an investment in your future. Each step you take toward your degree is a step toward a brighter, more promising future.

If you and your family have been saving for this milestone, that’s wonderful. However, if you are among the majority of students who will require some sort of financial support beyond cash savings, then you should apply for financial aid. There are many aid options and programs available to help every student.

Types of financial aid

Understanding the types of financial aid, the sources they come from and how to apply for aid is important.

Here’s a breakdown to reference as you consider options:

Aid you won’t pay back (gift aid)


Grants can be awarded through various sources. Federal, state and university grants have specific eligibility criteria, including your family’s financial need, academic achievements or specific demographics. Submit the FAFSA to be considered for federal grants.


Scholarships are awarded based on many different criteria, including your grades (merit), talents, sports achievements, cultural background and more. Federal and state scholarships will require you to submit the FAFSA for consideration, while others have a separate application.

Aid you pay back

Student loans

A loan is money you borrow and pay back, plus interest. Federal student loans usually offer the best borrowing terms compared to private loans, including interest rate and repayment options. Submit the FAFSA to be considered for federal student loans.

Parent loans

In addition to student loans, there are also Parent PLUS loans that your family may consider borrowing. There are certain criteria that your parents must meet in order to qualify, including passing a credit check. Submit the FAFSA to be considered for federal parent loans.

Other ways to pay for college

Federal Work-Study

Federal Work-Study is a part-time job opportunity for students who demonstrate financial need. If you are awarded work-study as part of your financial aid package, you'll be responsible for finding a work-study eligible job. Your financial aid office can help. The earnings you make through this program are paid directly to you, providing financial assistance while you study. Submit the FAFSA to be considered for Federal Work-Study.

Student jobs

Getting a job while you’re in college is a great way to help pay for costs. Student worker positions on your university’s campus will typically work around your class schedule and make accommodations for any extra time needed for study or exams. Student employment opportunities can be found on each university website.

529 savings plan

A 529 plan is a specialized savings plan designed to help families save money for future educational expenses, particularly college or university costs. Your family can contribute money to the account, and that money will be invested in different ways to grow over time. When it's time for you to go to college, the money in the 529 plan can be used to pay for important college expenses, such as tuition, fees, books, and sometimes room and board without being taxed. Each state offers a plan, check out Arizona's AZ529 Plan.

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