How Much College Tuition Can I Afford?

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College tuition is an investment in your future.

Want to go back to school and asking yourself how much college tuition can I afford? College costs may dissuade you from going for it, but in a modern economy you can't afford to not go back to school.

Calculating How Much College Tuition Can I Afford?

Before you put off going back to school because it's "too expensive", "too large of an investment" or "it takes too much from the family finances", look at all the options. Too often we think it's too expensive, when the reality is, that it will cost you more in the long run not to go back to school, than it will to take advantage of a higher education and enhance your career prospects.

One thing everyone can do to make college more affordable is submit a FAFSA application. When you apply to FAFSA, you can access money via Stafford Loans and other financial outsourcing to help you pay for college. All students, whether they are 18, 48 or 68, have definite amounts of money they can access under law to help finance an education. These federally subsidized loans mean you won't have to pay an exorbitant interest rate and you are not required to have good credit.

The law provides you, the student, with varying amounts depending on our class standing. For example:

  • Freshman: $2,625
  • Sophomore: $3,500
  • Junior: $5,500
  • Senior: $5,500
  • Graduate student: $18,500

Now those amounts may not seem like much. However, if you start off by attending your local community college for the first two years, you can make those freshman and sophomore funds stretch quite a bit. You still have access to scholarships, private loans and your own income. In some cases, employment subsidized education is another option. If you go back to school for something that will make you better at your job, your employer may pay for it.

Military service is another option that can help you pay for your own education. You can serve your country, learn a multitude of skills, make a wide variety of contacts and gain access to a college education through the G.I. Bill. You have a lot of options, if you choose to take advantage of all of them.

Making College Happen

If you want to go back to school, the first key to affording tuition is to explore every option you have. As stated above, community colleges reduce your initial costs because they are so much less expensive than four-year universities. Adults returning to school may be able to turn practical experience into college credits and more.

Potential students who do not want to take out loans should apply for every scholarship available and make an effort to put away $100 a week for three years. This will give you a college fund of about $15,000. This will pay for most community college educations to gain an associate's degree without any subsidizing, grant or scholarship funds. You can then take advantage of these types of funds to help pay for higher education. Graduate students receive the most funds because their classes are going to cost the most, so you may have more of a need for loans when going for a master's degree or doctorate.

Paying For College Yourself

You can pay for college yourself with careful financial planning and dedicated work towards your goal. You can invest your money in secure savings accounts, bonds or CDs. You'll want to explore these type of financial options with an expert. You may ask your family members to contribute funds to your college savings in lieu of gifts. You may save all monies you obtain through tax returns and other financial savings to help you pay for school.


The average college education costs about $25,000 for four years of classes, books and materials. This does not cover living expenses. Such a large amount may seem like too much at first, but with careful financial planning and awareness of all your options, from grants to loans to scholarships and employee reimbursement, "How much college tuition can I afford?" won't have to be a question that weighs on your mind.

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How Much College Tuition Can I Afford?