College tuition fees are at an all-time high. In fact the estimated total cost of attendance for a California resident living on campus at various UC’s is approximately $33,000 a year! That’s a total of $132,000 after a standard 4-year college degree program. Although this may be an alarming number, the UC system does offer generous financial aid programs that make it more affordable.
To even be eligible for financial aid you must apply for it. Most students should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA), which serves as your primary application for most federal, state, and school aid. Applications open in the beginning of January and close on March 2nd. Meeting this deadline is crucial; I have personally seen too many instances where students missed the deadline and lost out on thousands of dollars of free grant money! For California students who are eligible for the Cal Grant, make sure your high school or community college counselors have submitted your GPA to the state by March 2nd. California residents with incomes up to $80,000 can qualify for the UC’s Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan, which can possibly cover your entire tuition fees. That’s about $13,000 a year!
From an advisor’s perspective, most families get confused with what is actually included in a “financial aid package.” Depending on your family’s income, the financial aid you receive will be a combination of grants, loans, and scholarships. For example, a typical family of 5 with a relatively low income of $50,000 a year would most likely receive the average of $16,000 in grants. Since the cost is approximately $33,000 a year, the difference of $17,000 will be offered in the form of different government and private loans. Yes, loans are still considered as “financial aid” and it’s optional for families to accept these loans or pay from their own savings.
Here are 10 ways to minimize your costs!
1. Apply and receive private scholarships!
Remember there are unique scholarships for every school, contact their financial aid scholarship office to inquire about the deadlines.
2. Finish your degree on time!
An extra year due to taking the wrong electives or changing majors can tack on another $33,000 to your total cost. Don’t know what major to choose? Find out what major might interest you today by taking a free career test at www.ttlearning.org.
3. Share an apartment with other UC students!
UC’s approximate $14,000 a year for room and board. Share a room and you can cut that cost nearly in half!
4. Walk or bike to class!
Not only do you save on gas and insurance but you save over $1000 a year in parking permit fees!
5. Work at the library!
You’ll make some extra disposable income and have time to study during work; it’s a win-win!
6. Take out your federal subsidized and unsubsidized loans first!
Don’t touch private loans unless you absolutely have to, interest rates are variable and can be as high as 18%!
7. Buy used textbooks and avoid the campus bookstores!
In case you haven’t heard, there is something called the internet!
8. Cook for yourself!
On campus meal plans can be costly and the worst part is they don’t offer refunds if you don’t use all your “credits” by the end of the year.
9. Budgeting your personal spending
Once you’re in college there will be so many FREE events and activities all around campus. You don’t need to pay to have fun.
10. Take advantage of your financial aid advisor!
Each student is grouped to a certain financial aid advisor; visit them frequently to make sure you are not missing out on any deadlines or free money.