5 Tips for Saving on College

Let’s face it. College tuition can be expensive. If you think about it in real terms, the annual cost of attending some colleges can equate to purchasing a new car each year. It seems absurd, right? Like many others, you might be wondering “How am I ever going to pay for college” and “Is there anything that I can do to lower my costs?” As a college graduate, current graduate student, and high school teacher, I’ve learned a few tricks on how to save on college:

  • Paying for college graphicConsider attending a community college first and transferring after two years. Some states, such as Virginia and California, offer guaranteed admissions to certain four-year institution of higher education for students who complete two years at a community college. You can get your prerequisite classes out of the way and save yourself quite a lot of money in the process. Additionally, SAT and ACT scores aren’t required to get into community college – another money-saving perk. Taking a path like this is a great way to prevent you from borrowing more money than needed.
  • Just because you are awarded a sum of money doesn’t mean that you have to borrow all of it. Look at your finances, your tuition/school costs, and borrow only what you need. If you want to accept less than what you were offered, let your school know ASAP because borrowing more than you need will cost you extra in the long run.
  • There is a lot of free money out there. That’s right. I said FREE money; so go find it! You can get it in the form of a scholarship – a sum of money awarded to students to help pay for school. Scholarships are different than loans in that they do not need to be paid back; they are completely free. So, look into applying for scholarships before borrowing a loan. There are thousands of scholarships out there. Scholarships come in all forms – large, small, national, local, etc. On top of that, there are scholarships catered for people of certain ethnicities, locations, majors, religions, skills, along with many other classifications. Think of any topic, and there is probably a scholarship for it – the best homemade duct tape prom outfit, a scholarship for being tall, and a candy technology scholarship. So, my advice is: look into applying for scholarships before borrowing money. Check out College Board’s Scholarship Search to find scholarships that fit your individual characteristics.
  • In order to reduce the amount of money that you need to borrow, consider getting a job while you attend school. You might even be able to find a part-time job somewhere – perhaps the school library or IT help desk – that allows you to study while you work. Additionally, there are federal and statewide work study programs that can help you earn money to help pay for college, reducing the amount you need to borrow.
  • When borrowing loans, choose federal student loans over private student loans. If you receive a federal loan, it will have a fixed interest rate , whereas private loans may fluctuate. Moreover, federal loans offer many options for repayment, forbearance, and deferment. Learn more about the differences between federal and private loans.

It’s always a nice feeling to save money. So, make sure to explore all of the money-saving options available to you, and you might be able to alleviate some of your college expenses.  If you have any other questions or concerns about saving on college, visit StudentAid.gov.

Kelly Jubic is a digital engagement intern at Federal Student Aid.

Students: Do You Want to Make a Positive Difference in Education?

As President Obama said in his State of the Union Address, when we act together, in common purpose and common effort, there is nothing the United States of America cannot achieve.

The Department of Education (ED) is reaching out to our most valuable allies – STUDENTS.

If all students are going to graduate from high school and continue their education, we must seek your grassroots input and innovative ideas to address this goal. Are you a problem-solver, innovator, or entrepreneur?

Do you have innovative ideas on how to:

    1. Help middle school students’ transition to high school and graduate?
    2. Develop skills for success in postsecondary education?
    3. Choose affordable colleges that best suit student needs, consistent with their education and career goals?
    4. Increase the likelihood students complete their college degrees on time or early?

On February 1, 2012, ED launched a National Education Startup Challenge at http://nesc.challenge.gov. ED is inviting students to develop innovative, real-world solutions to help students to be college and career ready.

Students are invited to submit a business plan and a video clip promotion for a for-profit or non-profit startup that includes an innovative strategy, product or service designed to address one of the four topics above.

If you are in 6th grade through postsecondary or an out-of-school youth, you are eligible to participate. Dont miss this opportunity to share your best and brightest ideas! The deadline for submissions is May 1st, 2012.

To learn more about this and other exciting competitions, visit the Challenge.gov website at http://challenge.gov.

If you have questions regarding the National Education Startup Challenge, email:

EDStartupChallenge@ed.gov or for assistance, please contact Scott Hess at 202-245-7772 or scott.hess@ed.gov.

Steve Brown

Steve Brown is an Educational Program Specialist in the Office of Vocational and Adult Education

Rural Recruits: College and Careers Available

Even in a remote rural community like Altus, Okla., there are clear connections between education and the economy.

Pilot Javier Orama

Captain Javier Orama

During a recent visit to the Air Education and Training Command at Altus Air Force Base, I was reminded of a question I hear occasionally: “Why should rural students go to college when there aren’t many jobs in their communities?” I often wonder how different these communities would be if more youth and adults pursued college and other postsecondary career training opportunities.

Nationally, rural students are less likely to go to college than their peers from urban and suburban areas. At the same time, many rural communities need skilled workers more than ever to fill existing jobs, to attract new employers, and to cultivate entrepreneurship as a means for reinventing their local economies.

Even rural youth considering joining the military will need to continue their education beyond high school.

Altus AFB prepares military personnel for a variety of careers. The Air Education and Training Command provides classroom instruction complemented by computer-based training, and individual tutoring for Airmen in a variety of fields. The base even developed a “grow-your-own” mechanics program.

After climbing inside the enormous C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft during my visit, Captain Javier Orama emphasized the demand for math and technology skills in today’s Air Force.

“The C-17 is a flying computer. In fact, it’s many different computers,” he said.

Captain Orama is a pilot and an instructor for pilots training to fly the C-17 on airlift and refueling missions. The C-17 is a flexible, high-tech aircraft that can refuel in-flight and continue its mission indefinitely. If you dream of flying like Captain Orama, you will need at least a bachelor’s degree. Officers are generally required to be college or university graduates. College and career-level training is also a prerequisite for loadmasters and mechanics supporting the C-17 missions.

More U.S. military personnel come from rural areas than any other parts of our nation. And like private industry, the armed services are also looking for a highly skilled workforce.

Rural young people and adults need access and encouragement to pursue postsecondary education and training programs to lift up their families and communities, and our nation needs them to aim high.

John White is Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach

Back-to-School Stop Puts Spotlight on STEM Initiatives Preparing Students for College and Careers

On Friday, ED’s assistant secretary for postsecondary education Eduardo M. Ochoa, held a lively discussion hosted by Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) regarding innovative STEM initiatives designed to prepare students to succeed in college and make an easier transition into the workforce.  Ochoa’s visit was part of the Department of Education’s back-to-school tour that included over 50 events throughout the Midwest.

Representatives from NEIU spoke of the success of their GEAR UP partnership grant, which helped ignite student interest in a broad range of medical careers through a partnership with Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital. The Children’s Memorial Hospital provides opportunities for middle and high school students, from low income backgrounds, to shadow health care providers and participate in internships and summer programs relating to a broad range of medical careers.  The grant also engages students in hands-on STEM activities such as robotics and game design.

Ninth grade students who participate in these types of programs typically see a significant improvement of grades and standardized test scores.  Additionally, it was noted that 89% of seniors who participated in GEAR UP programs completed and submitted Federal Student Financial Aid (FAFSA) applications, demonstrating their motivation to finish high school and continue onto college.

Students highlighted how their participation in GEAR UP activities sparked interest in science, inspiring them to major in science fields in college.  Other forum participants, representing businesses, a museum, grant programs and other universities, passionately described their engagement and support around STEM education.

The forum sparked a great deal of cross fertilization, which we hope will provide additional opportunities for future collaboration and continued success.

Lynn Mahaffie
Office of Postsecondary Education

President Obama to Participate in Televised Town Hall on Education

Cross-posted from the White House Blog.

As part of his ongoing effort to improve education for all Americans, President Obama will participate in a Univision-hosted town hall with students, parents and teachers on March 28 to discuss education and Hispanic educational attainment. The town hall is part of Univision’s “Es el Momento” (The Moment is Now) initiative focused on creating a college-bound culture in the Hispanic community.

Do you have questions about better preparing students for college and 21st century careers? Or thoughts on how to increase parental engagement in education? Now’s your chance. In advance of the town hall, you’re invited to submit education-related questions here. Questions must be submitted by Sunday, March 27.

Then tune in to watch a live video stream from the event in either English or Spanish at EsElMomento.com, starting at 7:00 PM EDT on Monday, March 28.