Financing Higher Education

Postsecondary education is important for future economic stability for the individual and the nation. Unfortunately, the high cost to attend a two- or four-year institution of higher education can keep lower and middle-income students from achieving an academic degree. A student must make a number of financial decisions to make higher education a possibility.

Prospective college students need to think about where they will go for college, how they will pay for it, and how they will manage their finances during school and beyond. Institutions of higher education, both two- and four-year, can help young people and other students gain financial capability.

A report from the Financial Literacy and Education Commission (FLEC) (PDF, 48 pages) describes key financial decisions facing college students, including:

  • how much to work,
  • how to spend and the value of budgeting,
  • how to manage credit cards,
  • how to use a bank or credit union account, and
  • how to manage household finances.

The U.S. Department of Education’s College Affordability and Transparency Center provides a number of tools to compare schools by criteria such as cost, major, state spending on secondary education, graduation rates, and campus safety. These criteria are important to include in making the decision on which school to attend so that students can make smart choices for the short- and long-term management of their finances and helping to ensure their financial security.

To directly influence the financial capability and financial decision-making of students, the FLEC report recommends that institutions of higher education:

  • implement effective financial education programs and build a culture of financial capability,
  • prepare financial educators,
  • provide opportunities for students to receive one-on-one counseling,
  • provide students with peer-learning opportunities,
  • provide access to cost calculators and customized information, and
  • support research and evaluation on what works.

Resources

Financial inTuition Podcast (from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau)
The Financial inTuition podcast focuses on a variety of topics pertaining to saving and paying for higher education, managing money, and repaying student loan debt. Our team will share interviews with financial practitioners, students and recent graduates, family members and young adults that have successfully managed their money and repaid their student loan debt.

StudentAid.gov
This website is for parents and students as they navigate the financial aid process, from thinking about higher education through repaying loans.

Financial Aid Toolkit
This resource is for counselor, mentors, and individuals/organizations helping students through the financial aid process — this site has some great presentations, ideas of events, and content you can use.

Paying for College (from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau)
The tools and resources on this website are intended to help prospective college students and those in college make informed financial decisions about how to pay for college. Here, site visitors can compare financial aid offers and learn about student loan repayment options.

Federal Student Aid
This website is for Financial Aid Professionals and consolidates guidance, resources, and information related to the administration and processing of Title IV federal student aid into one online site for use by the entire financial aid community.

Preparing for College (from Federal Student Aid)
This website provides informative checklists that can help young people prepare academically and financially for college.

Repaying Student Loans (from Federal Student Aid)
This website offers information to help people with student loans manage the repayment process, and the site answers questions regarding loans and repayment.

Other Resources on this Topic

Youth Voices

Youth Briefs

How Individualized Education Program (IEP) Transition Planning Makes a Difference for Youth with Disabilities

Youth who receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) and especially young adults of transition age, should be involved in planning for life after high school as early as possible and no later than age 16. Transition services should stem from the individual youth’s needs and strengths, ensuring that planning takes into account his or her interests, preferences, and desires for the future.

Youth Transitioning to Adulthood: How Holding Early Leadership Positions Can Make a Difference

Research links early leadership with increased self-efficacy and suggests that leadership can help youth to develop decision making and interpersonal skills that support successes in the workforce and adulthood. In addition, young leaders tend to be more involved in their communities, and have lower dropout rates than their peers. Youth leaders also show considerable benefits for their communities, providing valuable insight into the needs and interests of young people

How Trained Service Professionals and Self-Advocacy Makes a Difference for Youth with Mental Health, Substance Abuse, or Co-occurring Issues

Statistics reflecting the number of youth suffering from mental health, substance abuse, and co-occurring disorders highlight the necessity for schools, families, support staff, and communities to work together to develop targeted, coordinated, and comprehensive transition plans for young people with a history of mental health needs and/or substance abuse.

Young Adults Formerly in Foster Care: Challenges and Solutions

Nearly 30,000 youth aged out of foster care in Fiscal Year 2009, which represents nine percent of the young people involved in the foster care system that year. This transition can be challenging for youth, especially youth who have grown up in the child welfare system.

Coordinating Systems to Support Transition Age Youth with Mental Health Needs

Research has demonstrated that as many as one in five children/youth have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Read about how coordination between public service agencies can improve treatment for these youth.

Civic Engagement Strategies for Transition Age Youth

Civic engagement has the potential to empower young adults, increase their self-determination, and give them the skills and self-confidence they need to enter the workforce. Read about one youth’s experience in AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC).