How can middle class families pay for college?

Jaclyn Gazewood, Staff Reporter

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The majority of the American population live in middle income households and lower income households. One of the most common problems for these families is finding a way to pay for college, while not going bankrupt at the same time. 

Lower income families and a few middle income families are usually able to apply for need-based scholarships.  Unfortunately, some middle class families are not eligible for financial aid because they’re just above the monetary maximum limitations to apply. In some cases, despite being middle class, these families may still not have the financial stability to send a single member-or in some cases-multiple family members to college. After a while, the expenses really add up, with tuition, fees, and room and board.  After attending college, the newly graduated student is crushed with student loans that they must deal with far into their future.

If it’s not possible for parents to completely pay for college, the student has the option to apply for scholarships while in high school and beyond, to lessen the expenses. There are two main classes of scholarships; merit-based and need-based scholarships. If a middle class family can’t apply for a need-based scholarship, then the other option is a merit-based scholarship.

Merit-based scholarships are awarded based on individual achievements, such as academic, athletic, or artistic accomplishments. The SAT and PSAT are necessary for admission into college and will help with merit-based scholarships. Taking an SAT preparation course can make all the difference between getting into a good school or a prestigious university. Need-based scholarships may include government grants and work study. Students can help offset the cost of college by educating themselves and understanding what financial aid packages different colleges can offer them.

It’s important for parents and students to understand the risks and rewards of where to go for college money, such as getting loans from banks,  tapping parents’ 401k, emptying savings accounts, and taking out second mortgages on the family home. It also helps to compare and visit different colleges. With enough research and early planning, paying for college won’t seem as strenuous for a middle class household. The sooner a family begins college planning, the better.

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