Costs and Finances


Questions to Ask About Costs and Finances

Woman at home calculating finances with computer and calculator

What is the cost of attending college?

This should include data and information on tuition, fees, books, parking, residence halls, food plans and other determinants. Be sure to ask questions and sources that will map out the full cost. It is also important to project out any tuition or other increases across the time you will attend. Keep digging until you get satisfactory and complete answers.

Tuition is the cost per credit hour of instruction. Fees are costs associated with other services such as a technology fee for internet access or a course fee for courses with special equipment and supplies such as a science lab course or a program fee for higher cost programs like nursing. Many institutions help students create a financial plan for the entire program so they can anticipate if they will be able to complete the credential. Be very cautious if you are not given complete information.

Calculator with text reading Financial Aid

How do I qualify for financial aid at my institution?

One of your best sources of information is the financial aid office at the institution that you are considering. The FAFSA, often required for accessing federal and some forms of state financial aid in states where it is offered, is a form that is required to access federal and other forms of financial aid, including grants, loans, and work-study.  It is important to meet relevant deadlines and complete the forms fully and may also require submission of other relevant financial information (e.g., tax data).

What are the differences between grants and scholarships as compared with loans and financial aid?

You will learn there are many sources of grants and scholarship, which you would not have to repay. There can be parameters that you will have to meet, such as keeping up a Grade Point Average (GPA), progress toward a degree, etc. This varies by institution.


Closeup of two people conferring about financial questions

Questions to Ask About Other Funding Sources

  1. How can I learn about student debt obligations?It is possible to use up all the aid available to a student in a certain time period, before the credential is earned. Therefore, it is very important to ask questions related to both funds available and for how long.
  2. What are the transfer implications? How will my financial aid eligibility be effected if I transfer to another college or university?
  3. What are the differences between grants and scholarships?  What are the sources for grants and scholarships? (Federal, personal and others?)
  4. What are parameters and rules for any scholarships? Such as how long will it last? and is a certain grade point average required? etc.
  5. Are any of these grants, scholarships, or even loans helpful and available post-graduation?
  6. Does the program or institution I am considering qualify for U.S. Department of Education Student Loans and Grants?
  7. What about state grants?
    Most states have a coordinating board with a great deal of useful information. For example, in Indiana students can go to: Other sources and regional [state] compacts are listed below.
  8. Admissions counselors make offers of grants and scholarships to prospective students, resulting in a discount from the published tuition. Does an aware of grants and scholarships serve as a binding contractual commitment?

    A best practice by colleges and universities is that an offer of “institutional aid” by an institution, once accepted by the student, would be viewed as a de facto contract or implied contract commitment made by the institution to the student. Unless there is a change in circumstances, students should understand this commitment like a contract.

Costs and Finances

Buyer Beware

What are the important issues related to financial aid? Filling out the financial aid form (called FAFSA) is free; be cautious about sites or individuals that ask you to pay a fee to submit it.

Buyer Beware

Be certain to determine the “total” cost of attending college, including tuition, housing if appropriate, books, fees, etc. Be cautious about anyone evading these questions. Hidden costs can be substantial, and you have a right to know exactly what this will cost and the financial aid, scholarships, and other sources of funding to assist in making any final decisions. Note that costs will likely rise during your time attending a college and ask for escalation estimates to fully inform you.