By Sumiko Martinez on November 30, 2015

This is the final part of StepUp Utah’s three-part blog series on how real students pay for college (you can check out Part I here and Part II here). There’s no single right way to finance your college education – but here’s how these two students are making it work.

Amanda Colligan 
Boston University
Degree Sought:  Ph.D. in Higher Education Policy
Cost of Attendance: $197,500 (for 11 years of education)

Key Strategies for Paying for Education:

  • Choose lower-cost public institutions for B.A. and M.A.
  • Seek opportunities to reduce housing costs: “When I was an undergraduate, at UMass Lowell I was an RA to negate my housing costs. Being an RA also gave me the opportunity to earn money with different jobs on campus in addition to my part-time job at nights and on weekends.”
  • Work part-time during college to pay for living costs
  • Take advantage of teaching & research assistantships to gain tuition waivers/remission
  • Work full-time during Ph.D. to pay for living costs
  • Minimize borrowing student loans and pay them off as quickly as possible
  • Take advantage of income-contingent student loan repayment plans
  • Apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness program

 Scott Crisenbery
Neumont University
Degree Sought: B.S. in Information Systems
Cost of Attendance: $120,000 for the entire program, approximately $75,000 in tuition costs

How Scott Is Paying for College:

  • $12,500 in merit scholarships (split evenly across 10 quarters)
  • A few other small scholarship awards from private donors
  • Parents downsized their house to fund college not covered by scholarships – essentially paying out of pocket

Key Strategies for Paying for Education:

  • Talk to your parents to come up with a paying for college plan that your whole family can manage
  • Keep records & spreadsheets to track costs and financial aid
  • Keep in mind that if you take longer than expected to graduate, your aid eligibility and needs might shift

As you can see from all of these students’ profiles, paying for college is an achievable goal! An important first step is getting the tools you need to make the best possible decision for yourself about the ways that YOU are going to pay for college.

First, use your college’s net price calculator to get the best possible estimate of your total financial aid package. The U.S. Department of Education provides a directory of all colleges’ net price calculators, so you can start doing your research right away.

Second, take a look at where you stand in relation to the basic formula of “savings/scholarships/grants/work-study/student loans.” Where do you need work? For many students, it’s in the savings and scholarships areas.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start planning your own path to paying for college!

Sumiko Martinez is a Community Outreach Officer with the Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority (UHEAA). Learn more about Sumiko at, and connect with her on Twitter @SumikoMartinez.