Career Cost 

Financial Aid Basics

Here’s a fact: College can be expensive. Here’s another fact: There are ways to make it more affordable. Whether it’s federal, state or institutional aid, here are financial aid basics you should know.

First, there is no age limit for federal student aid and applying is free at You might qualify for three categories of federal student aid:

• Grants are student aid funds that do not have to be repaid. Most federal grants are based on financial need.

• Work-study is money earned through a job on or near campus while attending school.

• Loans are borrowed money, which must be repaid with interest.

Second, it is important to understand what your federal aid will pay for. In addition to the usual expenses such as tuition and books, you can also use it to pay for dependent care, a personal computer, and costs related to housing and transportation.

Third, make sure you understand the type of aid you are receiving—especially if loans are bundled into your financial aid package by the college or university offering it. According to recent data from the U.S. Department of Education, federal loan balances for Americans 50 and over grew at a faster rate than for young people. Understand the risks of borrowing, especially the closer you get to thinking about retiring. If you are in default on your student loans, the government can even garnish your Social Security benefits.

Finally, know what degree you really need to see a boost in your salary and self-esteem. You may decide you really do need that bachelor’s degree or doctorate, but it could be that a certificate program or extra training—at no or low cost—can be just as satisfying and less costly. If you do decide to keep earning degrees, look at colleges or universities that offer “stackable” degrees, which enable you to earn a certificate, then have those credits count toward the next levels of study: associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees.


Trusted Online Financial Advice for information about the FAFSA and your state financial aid opportunities. for advice on financial literacy, student loans and options for Indiana students. offers the most up-to-date federal financial student aid advice and planning tools. covers all the basics on college, types of financial aid and how to apply.

Make sure the school you are planning to attend is accredited, and learn how to avoid being scammed by fraudulent diploma mills at

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