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There are so many choices and ways to pay for college.

Let’s look at an overview.

In general in comes down to this.  Find a school and a program that fits your needs and learning style.  Do whatever you can to limit the amount of time you need to stay on campus. Take advantage of every opportunity to work, get financial aid or qualify for scholarships.

You can reduce the time you’re enrolled by getting advanced placement credit for some courses.  You can do this through testing while still in high school or you can apply for classes at the local college that can possibly transfer to the school you enter.  You should also consider taking classes during summer break to accelerate your graduation date.

For financing, consider this:

  1. Choose a school that offers a great financial aid package: There are database search tools that will provide you with a comparison of the kinds of aid packages available.  You can access one of these tools through the Clear View website here.
  2. Consider a state school: Tuition is lower for instate resident students allowing you to save a bundle. If you like a school’s program but you live out-of-state, consider finding a way to qualify for in state residency.
  3. Work during school and more during the off-season: By working an average of 20 hours per week you can earn enough to cover most books, fees and equipment as well as pizza and beer.
  4. Find scholarships:  Getting someone else to pay for school is a real bonanza. So don’t underestimate the value of searching out scholarships.  Many go unclaimed each year.  You can start your free search at www.scholarships.com or www.collegeboard.com under the “Fund Finder” section.
  5. Consider post-college service programs:  By joining certain community service programs some or all of your student loans may be forgiven.  So consider working in an inner city neighborhood program like CityYear or teach.
  6. Borrow if you have to:  While Shakespeare said “neither a borrower nor lender be,” sometimes you can’t avoid it. So here your options are many and varied.  Over 71% of college aid comes in the form of loans.  To navigate your way through this contact a qualified financial planner who can help.

If you follow these steps, you can minimize the amount of debt you or your student will be burdened by.  And your retirement nest egg will remain intact as well.

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