Getting a college degree can help unlock a better future with more employment opportunities and the ability to earn a higher salary. In fact, someone with a bachelor’s degree will make almost $30,000 more per year than someone who only graduated from high school.

Not only is going to college one of the best ways to achieve a better life for you and your family, it also provides individuals with the opportunity for important life experiences such as networking, interning, studying abroad, doing community service, gaining leadership experience and making friends from diverse backgrounds.

For many paying for college can seem overwhelming, but what does college tuition actually cost?

As of 2021, the average costs of higher education in Arizona per year were:

  • Public 4-year university (in-state): $11,692
  • Public 2-year college (in-state): $2,166
  • Private 4-year university: $21,137
  • Private 2-year university: $12,404

The sticker price of an institution, however, does not give the full story. According to College Tuition Compare, the average cost of attendance at Arizona universities and colleges in 2021 is $19,294 for residents. This includes tuition, fees, books, supplies, on-campus room & board as well as other living expenses.

While spending $19,000 a year can seem expensive, here are seven ways to make college more affordable and help make your dream a reality.

1. Learn as much as you can about funding options available

There is both need-based and merit-based financial aid

There are a variety of financial aid options available to all students including grants, scholarships, loans, work-study opportunities, your own savings and family support. For more information, you can visit the Federal Student Aid website.

 

2. Visit the financial aid offices of the schools you are interested in attending

Your school’s financial aid department is there to make your postsecondary experience as affordable as possible. The financial aid counselors or advisers are there to help you fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), learn about ways to pay for college, understand your aid and your bills, and monitor important dates. To schedule an appointment, click the appropriate link below.

 

3. Submit a FAFSA application during your senior year of high school

Remember the FAFSA is required for many types of assistance

The FAFSA is one of the greatest tools in reducing financial barriers to accessing postsecondary education. For example, a family making $60,000 per year could be awarded up to $9,831 in federal aid. The form also opens students up to other financial aid opportunities such as grants, loans, scholarships and work-study programs. The earlier a student completes the application, the more money they are eligible to receive. You can fill out the form here.

 

4. Know the deadlines for applications and make sure to complete all requirements as early as possible

As a senior in high school, you’ll want to start looking for scholarships as soon as the school year starts. A lot of have deadlines that fall between October and March. It is important to know which scholarships you want to apply for, their deadlines and to create an action plan for each one so you can maximize your efforts in funding your education. Starting early and keeping track of the deadlines will make sure you receive some financial aid.

Resources:

 

5. Save any money that you can before graduating high school

All of this will be helpful with the cost of college

On top of personal savings accounts, which will help immensely when attending college, your family can also create an Arizona 529 Plan, which is a college savings plan named after Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code sponsored by the State of Arizona. The 529 Plan is designed to provide parents, grandparents, or anyone else an opportunity to save for a child’s educational dreams within a tax-deferred savings vehicle.

 

6. Explore scholarships and other financial aid options such as grants

Your parents’ workplace may offer scholarships too

The biggest difference between scholarships and grants is that grants are usually need-based whereas scholarships can be need-based or merit-based. However, both are free money that you do not have to pay back, unlike loans. Types of grants include the Federal Pell Grant, Arizona Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership, Academic Competitiveness Grants and National SMART Grants. Filling out the FAFSA is the easiest way to find out which financial aid opportunities you qualify for.

Grant Resources:

Scholarship Resources:

 

7. Look into work-study and university jobs when you apply for financial aid

Working through your school will help in many ways 

When filling out the FAFSA, you will need to check yes when asked if you are open to work-study opportunities. This will help financially needy students find part-time jobs while enrolled in school. The jobs will allow you to earn money to help pay for educational expenses and when possible the jobs offered are in civic education or work related to your course of study, boosting your resume for post-college. If you do not qualify for work-study opportunities, your school will probably have other employment opportunities. Both university jobs and work-study jobs can be on- or off-campus.

Work-Study Resources: