These ideas can be used by parents and students to make college more affordable.

It is not easy to pay for college. According to U.S. News data, the annual tuition and fees for ranked four-year colleges in 2021-2022 ranged between about $10,300 for public schools in-state and about $38,200 private institutions.

Families who are concerned about paying for college should take the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as a first step. This opens up a variety of financial aid options including grants and scholarships.

Many college admissions consultants advise that you submit your application as soon as possible.

Jack Shinn, financial education specialist, president of J Shinn & Associates in New Jersey, says, “It is a well-known fact that students who apply after Oct. 1, have a better chance that colleges will have more money to give out.”

Experts recommend that students borrow less from private loans than they do from federal student loans to help pay college costs.

These are just a few of the other options that you might not have thought about to help ease your college-related financial burden.

529 College Savings Plan

Local scholarships

Financial aid appeals

No-loan schools

Tuition assistance for employers

Dual-enrollment and Advanced Placement Credits

Assessments of prior learning

ROTC programs

Regional tuition exchange programs

529 College Savings Plan

Sallie Mae’s How America pays for College 2021 study found that parents had the highest share of college costs. This was approximately 45%, or $11,800.

The College 529 Savings Plans, which allow families to grow their savings without paying taxes, are used to pay higher percentages of college expenses than other savings options such as retirement and non-college savings accounts.

In an email Rick Castellano, a Sallie Mae spokesperson wrote that “a little over a third (37%) of parents) used a college savings account like a 529 to help pay college last year, which is consistent with our data for 2019-20.” This number is stable, but it still indicates that around two-thirds (or more) of families do not use these tax-advantaged accounts.

Local Scholarships

While universities and colleges may offer institutional scholarships to students, local scholarships can help reduce the cost of college. These scholarships are usually offered by nonprofits, local churches, or other places of worship.

Although these may not be equivalent to large awards like national scholarships, local scholarships are often more competitive.

Many companies offer scholarships to employees’ dependents.

Financial Aid Appeals

FAFSA uses information from “prior years” to assess a family’s financial needs. The 2022-2023 FAFSA, for example, uses 2020 federal tax returns. Families who have experienced a change in their financial circumstances recently, such as a job loss, salary reduction, or high dependent care costs, can apply for a financial aid appeal (sometimes called a professional judgement) from a college.

Bob Collins, Western Governors University’s vice president for financial aid, said in an email that colleges must recognize the changing economic environment and extenuating circumstances. “The coronavirus epidemic caused financial problems for many students and their families. College financial aid departments across the nation responded to an increase in professional judgment appeals.”