There's no denying that attending community college can cost you around $7,000.
While it may not be as expensive as the annual tuition at most four-year colleges and universities, and many students can cut costs significantly by staying within their local communities and continuing to live at home with their parents, that doesn't mean you won't still be on the hook for a moderate amount of tuition, not to mention books, transportation, and the like.
If you're like most students attending community college, you likely work part-time at a minimum wage job (if you work at all), even these lower-than-average college expenses can be a bit beyond your means.
Even if mom and dad are able to help with a portion of your bills, you might have to come up with some of the money on your own.
Luckily, there are several different avenues to explore when it comes to getting the financial help you need to pay for your community college experience.
Here are a few you'll want to check out.
Approach Your Family First, Not Counselors
The first thing to consider is approaching your family for loans.
While your parents may be maxed out when it comes to helping you pay for school, you might be able to get some assistance from grandparents, aunts and uncles, or other family members that have some money to spare.
But don't simply stick your hand out and expect free money.
Instead, behave like a responsible adult by putting together a proposal that includes information on what you need the money for, when you plan to pay it back, and perhaps even an interest rate. Most family members won't go so far as to charge you interest (although it may work out better for tax purposes).
But they may want some guarantee that they'll get their money back, so be prepared to sign a contract.
No matter how you look at it, it will likely be cheaper and less stressful than other types of loans in the long run.
Financial Aid for Community College Students
Of course, your family might not have any money to give you.
In this case you should definitely talk to your school counselor about options like:
- State Sponsored Financial Aid
- Federal Financial Aid (FAFSA)
- Private Loans
Scholarships and grants require no repayment, making them easily the most appealing, but they can be difficult to obtain.
However, you should not hesitate to apply for all that are offered by your school, as well as seeking out local, state, and federal scholarship programs, and also those that are privately offered (by individuals or organizations).
Try signing up for any scholarship websites that walk you through a questionnaire in order to personalize and narrow your scholarship search to the options that are most likely to meet your needs.
As for loans, keep in mind that qualification often depends not on your earnings, but the income of your parents, which could make it hard to get your hands on (unless you are emancipated or otherwise eligible to file independently).
Private student loans provide one last option, but because of the terms for repayment (higher interest rates, strict rules pertaining to the repayment schedule, etc.) you should avoid these cash loans if possible. In any case, you have all kinds of options for financial aid.
And if all else fails, you local community college provides you with the flexibility to take just a couple of classes a semester so you can continue to work and save for your continuing education.