How to Pay for a Degree

| Liz Simmons Updated on June 22, 2022

How to Pay for a Degree
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The price of higher education increases every year, leaving many students wondering how they can pay for their degree. In the U.S., one year of tuition cost $24,623 on average during the 2018-19 school year. This totals more than $98,000 on average for a four-year degree.

In the 2018-19 school year, the majority of students, including 86% of first-time, full-time undergraduates at four-year institutions, received some type of financial aid. This page explains how to pay for a degree in computer science. Keep reading for strategies to receive computer science financial aid.

How Much Does College Cost?

When researching how to pay for a degree in computer science, students should keep in mind that price varies significantly by school.

In the 2019-20 school year, the average annual tuition cost for one year of higher education was $9,349 at four-year in-state public schools, compared to $27,023 for four-year out-of-state public schools or $32,769 at four-year private institutions. Average tuition for the 2019-20 school year at two-year in-state public institutions cost just $3,377, while the average for out-of-state two-year schools cost $8,126.

Some learners pursue a computer science bootcamp instead of a four-year degree. Bootcamps often take only six or fewer months to complete.

Factors that can impact paying for a computer science degree include institution type, school prestige, and the availability of computer science degree financial aid.

  • Institution Type: Attending a public college or university where you can pay in-state tuition often costs substantially less than going to a private school or even an out-of-state public institution. Consider attending a two-year public school for the first two years of your education, then transferring to a four-year institution to save money.
  • Location: Schools in areas with higher costs of living — including densely populated metropolitan areas — often cost more to attend. Enrolling in an institution far away from where you live may mean paying for transportation and housing.
  • School Size: Large public institutions often offer more affordable tuition than small elite schools.
  • School Prestige: Attending a prestigious college or university often comes with higher financial costs.
  • Student Financial Aid: Some schools offer financial aid to much higher percentages of students than others. Ask specifically about computer science financial aid at any prospective schools.

When estimating the total cost of a degree, consider room and board, transportation costs, books, and school supplies alongside tuition.

How to Pay for a Degree in Computer Science

Below, we discuss how to pay for a degree in computer science. Students can use various strategies to fund their education. Types of computer science degree financial aid include scholarships, grants, and student loans. We also discuss work-study, employer assistance, using savings, and parental support.

Scholarships

Any student who needs help paying for a computer science degree should apply for scholarships. Unlike other types of financial aid — like loans — scholarships are "free money" that do not require repayment. This makes them the most desirable type of aid.

Each scholarship sets its own application criteria. Many scholarships are merit-based, recognizing athletic or academic abilities. Learners may also qualify for scholarships by demonstrating financial need or being a member of a marginalized group.

Organizations that offer scholarships for computer science include foundations, private businesses, professional groups, and individuals. Some schools also offer institutional scholarships for all students or department-based scholarships targeted aid specifically at computer science majors.

Scholarships come in various amounts, from one-time awards to "full rides" that cover all tuition, fees, and the cost of living for four years.

Grants

Grants are another popular type of aid that can help learners pay for a computer science degree. Like scholarships, grants do not usually require repayment, making them another desirable form of computer science financial aid.

Students receive grants from the federal government, schools, and state and local governments. Most grants require applicants to demonstrate financial need. Grants can come in any amount. As a type of gift aid that does not require repayment, learners should prioritize looking for grants early in their financial aid search.

Student Loans

Many students use loans as one strategy for paying for a computer science degree. When you get a student loan, a lender gives you money for your education that you must start repaying at an agreed-upon date.

Private Loans

Students can apply for private loans to pay their tuition. Banks and other financial institutions typically back private loans. Because they require repayment and can have unfavorable terms for borrowers, this is the last type of financial aid you should consider. One benefit of private loans is that there are no restrictions on how you can spend the allocated funds.

Federal Loans

Students can also use federal loans to help pay for their education. Federal loans require repayment, usually starting after graduation. The government's student loans come with specific terms and conditions about how money can be spent.

Federal student loans offer potential advantages over private loans, including better interest rates, more flexible repayment plans, and tax benefits. The federal student loan interest rate changes every year based on the 10-year Treasury note rate.

Students must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine their eligibility for federal student loans. Complete your FAFSA as early as possible for your best chances to receive financial aid.

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Loan Comparison Chart

The following chart illustrates the differences between government and private loans. Interest rates for private loans can be significantly higher than government loans, and private loans often have more stringent repayment requirements.

Stafford Loans Direct PLUS Loans Private Loans
Eligibility Requirements No previous federal loan defaults; must attend school at least half time Must attend school at least half time; also requires credit check Based on credit
Amount You Can Borrow $5,500-$12,500 per year, depending on dependency status and class status Up to the cost of attendance, minus other financial assistance Varies
Interest Rate Variable, but does not exceed 8.25% Fixed yearly; 6.28% for 2021-2022 Varies
Repayment Deferred until six months after leaving school Deferred until six months after leaving school or after attendance drops below half time Begins immediately (generally)
Income-Based Repayment Option? Yes Yes No
Forgiveness Option? Online, in person, or hybrid After 10 years if employed at a nonprofit or government agency No

Sources: ED, Benefits.gov

Other Ways

Students might be able to pay for their degrees through options like work-study programs, employer assistance, and college payment plans. Other options include saving up for school and getting parental help.

Work-Study

Work-study is a federal financial aid program that employs learners in part-time jobs on and off campus. The program accepts full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate students with demonstrated financial need.

Work-study jobs relate to the student's course of study when possible. Work-study participants receive at least the federal minimum wage, but many get paid more. Students can find work-study opportunities through their school.

Employer Assistance

Employed students can consider paying their tuition with the help of employer assistance. Some organizations offer employer assistance programs that pay part or all of an employee's college or university tuition. Employer assistance programs may stipulate that employees pursue a degree related to the organization.

Employees who receive employer assistance may need to agree to work for the company for a certain number of years or pay back any financial assistance.

College Payment Plans

Some colleges and universities offer payment plans that make it easier for students to attend school. This option often works well for learners who work while in school, but who cannot pay their entire tuition bill upfront.

Instead of requiring payment of a student's bill in full at the beginning of each semester, college payment plans let learners spread the cost out over several months. This can be particularly helpful for students who either cannot or do not want to take out loans.

Savings

Students use various types of savings accounts to pay for their degree. Relying on savings accounts means starting to save far in advance. Potential accounts to consider include 529 plans, education savings accounts, federal savings bonds, and high-yield savings accounts.

States and state agencies sponsor 529 plans, a popular type of college savings account that offers tax advantages and the potential to earn a return on investment. Education savings accounts offer similar advantages as 529s, but offer more investment options.

Federal savings bonds are a low-risk, tax-advantaged way to save money. They offer a modest return on investment. A high-yield savings account pays higher interest rates than a typical savings account.

Parental Support

Parental support can play an important role in helping pay tuition. Some families pay for part or all of their children's education through their own savings or income.

If using parental savings is not an option, parents can help their kids by going over different financial aid options together. Parents who complete their tax returns as early as possible make it easier for their children to file the FAFSA early.


Questions About Paying for a Computer Science Degree

How do people afford a bachelor's degree?

As the cost of tuition continues to increase each year, most people find paying for a computer science degree on their own difficult. Potential funding sources include scholarships, grants, work-study, and student loans.

How can I afford to pay for college with no money?

Most people use financial aid to help pay for a computer science degree. Students can apply for various types of computer science financial aid, including scholarships, grants, and work-study employment. Also, some colleges and universities offer payment plans.

What can I do if my parents won't pay for college?

Not everyone can rely on parental support to fund their education. Students can apply for various computer science financial aid, including scholarships and grants. You may also qualify for low-interest federal student loans.

Can FAFSA pay full tuition?

FAFSA on its own does not pay tuition, but it helps determine eligibility for some types of computer science financial aid. By filling out the FAFSA, it is possible to qualify for enough financial aid to pay your full tuition.


Featured Image: BrianAJackson / iStock / Getty Images Plus

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