During the summer months, college students are typically worried about next year’s housing arrangement or course schedule. This year, however, the concerns are a lot bigger. Students and parents are having to ask themselves: “What will next fall on college campuses look like? Can we even afford college? Should we pay such a high sticker price for virtual or hybrid classes? How can we bridge the gap between what we can pay – and what we can’t?” While you can’t personally control a pandemic or a culture shift, you can control how you pay for college – even in these unprecedented times. Let’s take a look at what you can do to make a college education more affordable right now.To qualify for federal student loans, you must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Even if you don’t qualify for financial aid, you can get access to several federal student loan programs simply by filling out the form. These federal student loans include a direct unsubsidized loan, the Parent PLUS Loan and the Grad PLUS Loan. There are limits to how much you can borrow per year under these loan programs; however, the amount may just be what you need to bridge the gap.At the same time, students and their families need to consider borrowing smartly. Never borrow more than the total amount of your expected annual salary after graduation. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), recent college graduates make on average about $72,173 per year. With that, students should not borrow more than $18,043 per year – if they plan to attend and graduate college within four years.
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