How to Pay For College: 3 Top Sources of Aid

Keystone Financial Group |

It’s no secret that the cost of pursuing higher education is becoming unaffordable, even for affluent families. If you have aspirations of sending your child to college, it is certainly possible, but there are some details to consider, and you will want to make sure that you understand how to optimize your college investment.

According to the College Board’s Trends in Higher Education, the average sticker price for a public, four-year in-state education in 2021-2022 is $27,330. If your student is looking at a private college, it could cost around $55,800 and up. These numbers seem astronomical, but when you estimate the costs involved in going to college, it’s easy to see how it adds up:

Table showing the average budgets that a student at an in-state, out-of-state, and private nonprofit college may have. It includes tuition, room and board, books, and personal expenses

What are parents to do?

If you’re serious about securing a college education for your child, you should start saving as early as possible. But this shouldn’t be done at the expense of your other financial priorities, such as retirement. You should consider your overall financial plan, and aim to direct your resources to your most important financial goals.

Unfortunately, depending on your situation, it may not be possible to save enough to entirely fund a college education out-of-pocket. So where will the rest of the funding come from?

1. Financial Aid 

It is estimated that 83% of college students benefit from financial aid. Even affluent families can qualify for financial aid through federal grants as well as the colleges themselves. By planning strategically and choosing a college wisely, you may be able to select a school that will meet more of your financial aid needs than other similar institutions. Determining financial aid eligibility can be somewhat complicated, but the general formula considers your child’s assets first and then determines a family contribution portion of aid. It’s recommended that you start financial aid planning as early as the Freshman or Sophomore year of high school. Smart school selection can also help you find schools that may offer more merit aid to your student, even if you don't show any financial need.

2. Scholarships

Future college students don’t need to be the brightest or most athletic to receive scholarships. There are scholarships of all forms and sizes available. Though some may seem small, they can add up. Your school counselor and community leaders can help you learn more about finding various scholarships. Our clients also have access to a large database of private scholarships that can help to bridge the college funding gap.

3. Education Loans

Though widely available, college loans can be a double-edged sword for students. Approximately 43.4 million college students graduate with federal student loan debt, and about 15% of student loans are in default. Borrowing for college expenses should be a last resort, but, if it’s done within the context of a well-conceived financial plan, it may not become an insurmountable burden. We recommend that your student take on no more than his or her first year's anticipated annual salary in total loan debt, in order to make the payments manageable.

Being able to afford higher education for your child can be challenging, but it’s definitely possible. If you’re not sure how saving for your child’s college fits within your overall financial plan, consider speaking with a college planning professional.

Want to discuss your plan to pay for college and learn how to optimize your college investment? Contact our office today for a free family strategy session!


College Board, Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid 2021,

Hanson, Melanie. “Financial Aid Statistics”, February 15, 2021,

Hanson, Melanie. “Student Loan Default Rate”, December 19, 2021,

Hanson, Melanie. “Student Loan Default Rate”, December 19, 2021,


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