How to Pay for College Even When You Think You Can’t

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average annual cost of college tuition, fees, room & board is between $16,000 and $42,000. If those numbers make your head spin, you’re not alone. Whether you’re trying to pay for college yourself, or you’re looking to fund your child’s education, here are some resources that can help ease the financial burden.


Thankfully, there are ways to make a university education more affordable. Some scholarships will cover your entire tuition, as well as books & housing, whereas others will only award you a few hundred dollars. Keep an eye on the deadlines and apply for as many as possible, because you can get more than one.

Academic and athletic scholarships are probably the most common, but you can also gain funds based on your ethnic background, hobbies, military service, or an essay you wrote. They can also be unusual, such as the TCI Scholarship Award given to students above a certain height, and the Chick and Sophie Major Memorial Duck Calling Contest, which has awarded more than $73,000 in scholarships since it began in 1974.

Contact the school’s financial aid office to discuss what’s available and how to apply. You can also find options online, but beware of scammers who will ask you to pay for consideration or ask for too much personal information.


Federal and state grants are financial aid distributed by the government. They’re available for almost anyone in need and generally do not need to be repaid. There are four federal types:

  • Pell Grants – awarded to undergraduates in financial need
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG) – created for undergraduate students having exceptional financial need
  • Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) – given to students who intend to teach at schools with low-income families
  • Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants – for students whose parents or guardians died during military service

Apply at to see what assistance you qualify to receive.

Coverdell Education Savings

America First offers Coverdell education accounts, which are savings accounts specifically designated for your kids’ education. You can deposit up to $2,000 per year and automatic transfers make setting aside the money easy. Even $10 monthly will quickly add up and make a difference in your child’s future.

Get involved

It pays to get involved with school organization and activities. Many student government officers receive tuition discounts. You can also qualify for stipends at many universities by creating college clubs. Additionally, on-campus jobs will sometimes include a tuition portion in addition to a paycheck.

No matter what you decide to study, higher education is costly. However, it doesn’t have to mean financial ruin. By saving money, applying for scholarships & grants, and getting involved on campus, you’ll find that paying for college can more affordable.