Attending College is Affordable: With the Help of Grants, Scholarships, & Loans

Knowledge Makes it Possible

College-bound students face a daunting coming-to-terms with college sticker prices. I’ve been in those shoes all too recently, and since then I’ve learned there’s a right and a wrong way to approach the financial end of a college education. Parents and students under the assumption that college costs have priced them out of the running are downright wrong. Yes, mainstream media still hawks climbing tuition costs, politicians use the college cost mantra to drum up Everyman constituents stung by education bills at every level, and colleges and universities continue to market their academic mystique.

Demand Drives Cost

The whole is a necessary confusion. The fact remains that in most areas of business and industry, a professional is not going anywhere without some viable form of post-secondary education. I say “viable form” because some of my recent research has turned up some intriguing trends that not only reinforce a four-year degree, but encompass alternatives such as professional and vocational diploma and certificate programs. These new belles of the ball were once sneered at. No longer. Job vacancies among a slew of technical and professional fields are anticipated to boost salaries through the roof and drive a new vigor in vocational education.

Adult learners pose a new force in the expanding universe of higher education. “College- age” may not necessarily nor exclusively drive prices and trends. Advancing numbers of adult learners seek flexible, high-quality, and practically oriented college programs and have alternative financial aid tools laid at their doorsteps.

Types of College Costs and Trends

Traditionally any exploration of college costs would be limited to four-year colleges and universities, both private and public. Coming-of-age offspring of higher education beg to have their day, as well. New trends drive new costs. I covered recent costs and trends in Review of College & University Choices.

Get the Right Financial Aid Fix

New trends drive new costs, right? How then do you fund a traditional private program or one of the new vocational programs? What kinds of lenders and aid products are available and what role do colleges and universities play in keeping your final price in check?

Taken at face value, the costs I outlined above make one wonder how anyone can afford to go to college. The truth is that outside of the retail price tag attached to a degree, the biggest trends in education surround the bunker of free aid tools available to students. Scholarships and grants, provide something-for-everyone funds. These particular free sources of student money are big business. Good reason to reap the benefits.

Student Loans

Of course student loans still exist along the front line of financial aid. The federal government seems perpetually embroiled in aid debate. Sources argue responsibility for increasing college costs and depending upon current administration it’s anyone’s guess on which side of the fence a student aid budget might fall. Federal loans have received a boost and many are widely available to all types of borrowers with or without good credit.

When repayment rolls around lenders and even the federal government address the repayment struggle with cleverly designed products such as consolidation loans and deferment terms.


Free money is available for nearly any type of student. Scholarships have become quite creative over the years, but without a dose of internet savvy and self-discipline only the most dedicated students will prevail and even then some private awards are modest at best. State and federal government administer larger scholarship awards that should not be overlooked.


Grant monies remain a necessity and may be disbursed without even asking. The most generous sources are often the colleges and universities that strive to bridge the chasm between students’ federal loans and the reality of family contributions. Federal grants are awarded based on the information provided on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). State grants continue to be created, both for social and political good. Many state grants are now funded by lottery programs and are intended to reward students willing to study locally.

Strategy for College Success

Armed with the right information students are freer to strategize reasonable courses in higher education. Consider your career focus or interests, financial and time constraints and your willingness to motivate yourself to seek the appropriate funds to accomplish your goals. Any type of college degree you wish is within your reach.