'Financing College: Where’s the Money?'

This is the introduction to a series of articles from Penn State offering tips and information about financing a college education.

How can I afford a college education?

Paying for higher education can be a daunting task, and there is no one-size-fits-all formula to determine how to come up with all of the necessary funds. Financing a college education often requires cobbling together different options to accomplish this singular goal.

With the help of Anna Griswold, assistant vice president for undergraduate education and executive director for student aid, and others within the Penn State community, this five-part series of stories, titled “Financing College: Where’s the Money?” will share techniques and ideas for ways to pay for a college education.

While some students are fortunate enough to have the academic or athletic achievements to garner the funds to entirely pay for a college education, most students have not been offered that “full ride” through college.

So, where should students and their families look for financial options?

This series of articles will examine loans, grants, scholarships, employment, tax credits, Penn State programs, and other techniques to accomplish this end goal — paying for college. During the 2015-16 academic year, 73 percent of Penn State undergraduate students received more than $1 billion in financial aid, including $176 million that students and their families secured on their own from sources external to Penn State. This money included grants, 25 percent; scholarships, 13 percent; work study, less than 1 percent; and loans, 62 percent.

Penn State financial aid piechart

During the 2015-16 academic year, 73 percent of Penn State undergraduate students received over $1 billion in financial aid, including $176 million that students and their families secured on their own from sources external to Penn State. This money included grants, 25 percent; scholarships, 13 percent; work study, less than 1 percent; and loans, 62 percent.

Image: Penn State

One of Penn State President Eric Barron’s areas of focus is on access and affordability for students. Barron’s Plan4 Penn State initiative has resulted in new programs and more emphasis on assisting students in the completion of their college education. These initiatives include Pathway to Success: Summer Start (PaSSS), an effort geared toward “at-risk” students; the Student Transitional Experiences Program (STEP), which is targeted toward students moving from Commonwealth Campuses to University Park; online courses; the Raise.me micro-scholarship program; and financial literacy instruction.

All of these efforts are aimed at increasing retention and graduation, decreasing the total cost of a degree, reducing the rate of borrowing, and shrinking attrition due to the need for additional money to continue attending college.

While the majority of college funding sources are concentrated during the time of a student’s enrollment, there are really three distinct points in a student’s life when an education can be financed — before enrolling, while enrolled in college, and after graduation. With that in mind, the next story in this series, “Start Early,” will examine financing a college education before a student enrolls. New articles in this series will be published every two weeks.

For more information on admission to Penn State and financial aid, go to http://admissions.psu.edu/costs-aid/.

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Last Updated March 01, 2017