Paying for a College Degree

Can I afford this school? Persist in your quest for scholarships: 9 Scholarship Bulletins
How can a working mom afford college? Financial aid deadline
How to afford textbooks Can my daughter borrow $15,000 without my permission?
If I get a job, can my kids still win scholarships? I don't see the point in applying for financial aid. We make too much money.
Paying for College ACT I. What will everyone contribute?
Parents and students should talk openly about college finances. Many of the parents in my practice describe their students as "living in a bubble" when it comes to money.  Ignorance is not bliss. How a family pays for college can impact a household's finances for decades. Use the Get Real, Get Ready: Paying for College Worksheet to discuss how much parents, students, and others will contribute to a student's education over 4 years. Enter those amounts into the Pre-College Analysis Tab.

You can also use the worksheet to calculate the cost of attendance and potential financial gaps. Download the Get Real, Get Ready Paying for College Worksheet here. (Excel Spreadsheet)

Paying for College ACT II. How much will school cost?
Students, list what you desire from a school. Large vs. small? Located in a college town or large metropolitan area? Great job placement rate? Great medical school placement rate? Use this wish list to search for colleges at BigFuture. Then, use the prospective university's Net Price Calculator to approximate costs.

How to find the Net Price Calculator
Visit Google and enter the following: ABC school net price calculator. For example, to estimate the cost of attending the University of Oklahoma, Google the following: University of Oklahoma net price calculator. Here's Oklahoma's net price calculator

Paying for College ACT III. Choose some tools that will help you close the gap.
    • Dual Credit: Talk with your counselor about this program that allows students to earn high school credit and college credit simultaneously.
    • Advanced Placement: Register for AP Courses in high school and take the exams in May. (Each exam can cost up to $142.) 
    • College-level Examination Program (CLEP): Pass an exam (cost: up to $85) in exchange for college credit. 
    • Work-Study: Work-study programs typically offer higher wages and greater flexibility than other jobs available for students. 
    • Employer benefits: Does your employer offer tuition reimbursement or tuition discounts?
    • Apply for scholarships: Check out these local scholarship bulletins.
    • Texas B-on-Time Loan Program: This loan is forgiven when students graduate with a minimum grade point average within a certain number of years. * Correction: This award is only available for renewals, not new applications.

Enter the Net Price, Per credit hour cost of tuition, and college credits earned through Dual Credit, CLEP, or Advanced Placement Exams in the Net Price Analysis tab.

Enter the Net Price for 4 Years in the Fill in the Gaps tab.

 Download the Get Real, Get Ready Paying for College Worksheet here. (Excel Spreadsheet)

Q: Dream College accepted my son. We are thrilled, yet confused. Besides paying out-of- pocket, How do we pay for his college education?

A: Follow these 4 steps before the letter of acceptance arrives.

1. Learn the financial aid terms:

Scholarships: Awards based on merit, financial need, or a combination of the two. This money does not have to be repaid. HINT: The best sources for scholarships are local private and public organizations.

Grant: This money does not have to be repaid. The federal government, state governments, and colleges award this money. Generally, financial need determines the grant recipients and dollar amounts.

Loan: Money that must be repaid by the student or the student’s parents. Subscribe to ScholarSpot, the newsletter, and learn the differences between public and private loans and subsidized and unsubsidized loans.

Work-study: A student works part-time to pay for school expenses. Typically, work-study employers are on campus, pay more than the minimum wage, and offer flexible hours.

2. Start applying for scholarships as early as ninth grade. Ms. Jennifer won enough scholarships to pay for 4 years of out-of-state tuition and fees. She shares 5 steps to finding the money you need. Read More>>>

3. Submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as you can after January 1st of the need year. For example, students who need college financial aid for Fall 2008 or Spring 2009, will submit the FAFSA beginning in January 2008. The FAFSA will reflect income from 2007.

4. Make a friend in Dream College’s recruitment office. These insiders know about scholarships and financial aid programs that don’t appear on the websites or brochures. Caution: Document all information from these conversations. Parents and students should record the time, date, and the university representative’s name.

Q: I just graduated from high school and will start college in August. The university gave me a $30,000 scholarship to be spread over 4 years. My mom calculated that the scholarship would pay $3,750 each semester. My counselor told me to look at the TOTAL costs of going to school, not just tuition and fees.
When I add food, housing, books, and transportation to tuition and fees, my costs will be $7,500 a semester. I received a $2,000 per year (for 4 years) scholarship for any college/university from my mom's job. After scholarships, I will still owe the school $3,500 a semester. It's my dream to go to this private university, but I can't afford it. Help! — Finance-minded freshman
Dear Finance-minded freshman,
It's great that you calculated all of your expenses prior to enrolling. Many students discover these mounting costs weeks into the semester. Here are options that can help you with the $3,500 shortfall:
1. Compare costs. Have you been accepted by other schools? I'm assuming that you filed the FAFSA. Did they offer you any financial aid? Remember, you can take the $2,000 scholarship to any school. Determine which school is the best buy.
2. Talk to the financial aid administrators and recruiters at Dream University. They might point you to a work-study job, scholarship, or grant that another student turned down at the last minute.
3. Become a responsible borrower. Contact Dream University's financial aid department and request a government-sponsored student loan. These loans offer low interest rates and restrict the amount you can borrow to your financial need.
4. Borrow early. The money from government-sponsored student loans come from private banks. In today's economy, these financial institutions have been crippled by bad home loans. This is causing a domino effect in the student loan market, and banks are going to issue fewer loans to college students than in the past.
5. Keep your grades up. You can't afford to lose your Dream University scholarship. Plus, you might earn more scholarships in the coming years. Remember, you have to apply to win.
6. Discuss these options with your parents.

Scholarship winners hit walls, yet they persist.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships are available; you just have to be willing to work to get the money.
3 ways to persist in your pursuit of scholarships:
1. Write your scholarship target – the exact dollar amount – and post it everywhere. Your mirror, your locker, your cell phone, your computer, and your closet should display this number. Focus on that dollar amount when you glimpse others winning scholarships that you wanted. 
Although any amount of money is a lot of money when you don’t have it, realize that you’re not raising a million dollars. Remember that your community, state and prospective university yearn to give money to deserving students.
2. Maintain a positive attitude in the face of rejection. I applied for over 30 scholarships and won a fraction of them.  
3. Push the Haters to the left—or the right —as long as they move out of your way. Some people, even the adults in your life, will tell you that winning scholarships, or even attending college, is not for you. Some Black parents have told me that Black kids can’t write personal essays. Well, I’m Black, and I wrote my way into no student loan debt and a future.

 Atascocita High School
Crosby High School
Cypress Fairbanks ISD
Glenda Dawson High School
Galena Park ISD
Humble High School
Katy High School
Pearland High School
Summer Creek High School
Q: I wanted to see if scholarships are available for adults like me (I'm older and a  mom). I need more resources to complete my Bachelor Degree in Human Services  from the University of Phoenix online. I used all the tuition reimbursement money, $3,000, from my job.
I still have about two years to complete this degree. I wish I could pay my way through college, but unfortunately I cannot at this time. Knowing that there are all kinds of free money available for college, I don't want to get any loans for school.
Recently, the school acknowledged my good grades and added me to the Dean's List. I can write essays, but I feel that they are not good enough to get the scholarships. Do you know the names of resources so that I can help myself?— Motivated Mom
Jennifer: Congrats on making the Dean's List and working toward completing your degree. Submit the FAFSA ( and use the following resources:
  • University of Phoenix Tuition and Financial Options page: Click here.
  • BPW Career Advancement Scholarship: Click here.
Essay tips:
  1. Start writing. The essay is about you so it must be better than "good enough."
  2. If you have questions about the essay topic or requirements, contact the granting organization.
  3. Revise after you read the essay aloud.
  4. Ask someone you trust to review the essay.
  5. Submit your type-written application and essay on time.

Q: Have I missed the October 1st deadline to file the FAFSA for my 12th grade son? One of my girlfriends told me that I am late. I thought I was supposed to wait until I got my tax return done. Which is true? — Frazzled by financial aid
Dear Frazzled, calm down. Since your son will begin college in Fall 2018, the first day that he can submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) was October 1, 2017. Even if you don't have your W-2 and 1099 forms and completed tax return, go to and apply now. This application is your son's gateway to grants, loans, work-study programs, and scholarships. Often, financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Plus, the FAFSA people will accept an estimate of your 2016 income.

How to afford College Textbooks
Free option #1: If the library has the book, check it out before anyone else does. Renew the book during the entire semester.
Free option #2: Borrow books from others who have taken the classes that you are currently taking. Check with your professor to see if an old edition is acceptable. After all, what recent developments have occurred in College Algebra or Colonial American History?
Free option #3: Ask the professor if you can perform well in the class without reading the textbook.
Cheaper than campus bookstores option #1: Rent textbooks at
Cheaper than campus bookstores option #2: Purchase textbooks online. Here are three websites:

Be sure to understand the return policies before you buy.

Q: Jennifer, my daughter will attend Texas A & M University next year. My husband and I want her to focus on her studies and not work her freshman year. She loves to buy the latest purses, shoes, and clothes. We are worried that she will take out a loan to support her spending habits. Is it true that she can borrow $15,000 without our permission? - Nadia J.


She can and she will. Two types of loans are available for students: government-backed and private. The limit for Stafford loans (backed by the federal government) for the 2007-08 academic year for a freshman is $3,500. Government loans are paid directly to Texas A & M; private loans are paid directly to the student. Exercise caution when borrowing from private lenders. Unlike Uncle Sam, these lenders don't consider need. Foolishly, many students borrow more than they need. I've known of students to borrow $20,000 from a private lender in one academic year.

Q: Jennifer — I need your help. I mentor a family that has heard that if they make more than $50,000 a year they put themselves at risk to not get scholarships for their kids. Therefore the mother is thinking of delaying her job search. The mother and father opened a restaurant that failed, and they are left with $40,000 debt. If the mother gets a job, will the children be excluded from scholarships?  —Concerned community leader.

A: No. Students may qualify for need-based or merit-based scholarships or a combination of the two. The student's family's financial circumstances determine need-based awards; a student's achievements determine merit-based aid.

Mom must encourage her children to do the following: take the most rigorous courses, earn a high grade point average, and devote their time and talents to school and volunteer activities.

When applying to college (and every year spent in college), her kids should submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid ( Increasingly, many universities require this financial aid paperwork from would-be need-based and merit-based scholarship recipients. The U.S. Department of Education will review the paperwork and calculate the family's contribution (EFC). Then, each school uses the EFC to establish a student's need for help in paying for tuition, fees, books, and other educational expenses. It is ideal to have a low EFC: the lower the EFC, the less the family has to pay. If Mom feels that her kids deserve more need-based aid, then she should meet with the school's financial aid administrator.

Q: Currently, me and my husband make close to $100,000 a year. I even started working a second job for college savings for our oldest son to go to school. We have only $2,000 set aside in savings for our son. He finishes high school this May. I don't see the point in applying for financial aid because we make too much. My husband insists we can qualify for something. Is this true? - Strapped in the suburbs

1) Submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA; ). Even if your family earns below the poverty level, grants, loans, and work-study may come your son's way. Income is part of determining need. Other factors include number of dependents and assets (or lack of). Plus, many universities won't award any scholarships without your son's FAFSA.

2) Submit the entire financial aid application. Check with your university for extra forms. Some private universities look at net income and net worth (assets minus liabilities) to award scholarships.

Last modified: Wednesday, 26 September 2018, 2:04 PM