Skip to Content

Finance of Attending College

There are many reasons to consider going to college after high school. Preparation for careers that require a post-secondary education. For example, anyone who wants to be a doctor, engineer, or school teacher, needs a college degree. And mathematics will be a huge help, both in getting into college and as a requirement for many degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (also known as STEM).
college grad

College graduates typically earn more over their lifetimes, when compared to those who do not have a college degree. According to the College Board’s 2016 Education Pays report, the average college graduate will earn, on average, $24,600 per year more than students with only a high school diploma. If you work for 30 years, how much difference would this make in your total earnings?

1. This same report shows that college graduates tend to be healthier, to smoke less, and to exercise more.
2. College graduates also are more satisfied with their jobs, and have greater job stability. In short, they are more likely to be satisfied with what they do, and less likely to become unemployed.

Junior college versus four-year college?
Many students consider a junior college to start with. These are two-year programs that are typically easier to get into than many four-year programs and are less expensive annually than a four-year college. They tend to have smaller class sizes and often have a curriculum that is more closely tied to a specific degree. However, their curriculum might be limited, and a junior college degree alone probably will not be enough to qualify for many careers, particularly in STEM. However, for many students a junior college degree is great preparation for a four-year college and is a nice transition immediately after high school. Junior college degrees also prepare students for many types of jobs that a high school degree does not.


Compare the annual salaries of different careers. Find at least one career that only requires a high school education, one career that requires a junior college degree, one career that requires a four-year college degree, and one career that requires a more advanced degree, like a MA or PhD. Find the annual average salaries for each career, then calculate how much more a worker might make during a career. Use the internet to explore the different possibilities.

There are numerous advantages to either a two-year or four-year diploma over a high school diploma. One of the first questions that arises, however, is how much does a college education cost, and how can a student or family pay for college?

The expenses for all colleges are different. These expenses include tuition, fees, books, travel, room, and board. Individual students need to look at each potential college’s cost. After that, the students and their families must decide how to get the money needed for college. Fortunately, there are many ways to get college money.

Let’s talk about some options:

Expand All Content
  • Some parents are able to save enough money to pay for their children’s college education. Savings can be a huge help. Some parents establish a savings plan early for their children so that they have enough money to pay for college. However, many students find it necessary to get more funding than available savings. So let’s look at other ways to finance a college education.

  • Many colleges provide grants to help students who need financial help to attend them. There are federal grants and state grants. Check with the college of your choice to find what kind of grants are available. Your guidance counselor might also have information about grants that are independent of a particular college.

  • Colleges also provide scholarships. A scholarship acts a like a grant that is given to the student to pay certain expenses. There are many types of scholarships: sports, academic, needs-based, or other. A needs-based scholarship is given to a student based on financial needs. Check with each college you are considering to see what aid you might qualify for. If you have a special talent, like music, check with the music departments at different schools to see whether they have a scholarship that is dedicated to music majors. People establish many special scholarships to encourage students to enter one particular area. There are many different types of scholarships available, and you might qualify for several different scholarships. The more scholarships you get, the better!

  • The advantage of grants and scholarships is that you don’t have to repay the amount you receive. If you don’t receive a scholarship or grant, however, you can apply for student loans. There are two types of loans: subsidized and unsubsidized. A subsidized loan is a loan that is partially supported by someone else. For instance, the government might subsidize the loan, so there is no any interest on the loan until graduation. An unsubsidized loan is not supported by anyone else. The lending agency probably begin charging interest from the time you receive the money. However, each loan is different, so carefully check the conditions of the loan to decide which is best for you.

  • This option allows students to make money through a special program that is partially subsidized or supported by the government. In a work-study program, the students work a certain amount each week, usually 25 hours or less, to help pay for expenses. However, not all students are eligible for work-study. Qualifications depend on financial situation and university policy, so check the possibility, if needed.