Paying for college
How are you preparing to pay for college?
Paying for college can feel overwhelming. Luckily, Utah’s public universities have the 4th-lowest tuition in the nation, and there are many resources available to you to help you pay. For example, saving in a tax-advantaged 529 college savings plan such as the my529 can help you pay for qualified higher education expenses. And grants, scholarships, work-study jobs, and loans are other ways to pay. The key is to do your research and create a plan.
my529 is Utah’s official and only tax-advantaged 529 college savings plan. One of the nation’s top 529 plans, my529 offers 14 flexible and innovative investment options, including two customized options. Other benefits include:
- Opening an account is free and no minimum balance is required.
- Fees are low.
- Earnings grow deferred from federal and Utah state income taxes and are tax-free when used for qualified higher education expenses such as tuition, mandatory fees, required books and supplies, and certain room-and-board costs.
- Utah taxpayers may claim a 5% Utah state income tax credit for each account they own for contributions up to a certain amount.
Scholarships are often awarded for academic merit as well as outstanding service, leadership, talent, financial aid, and more. Don’t assume that scholarships are just for students with good grades or an impressive list of accomplishments; there are many other criteria on which scholarships are awarded.
Help your student find scholarships by:
- Asking their school counselor.
- Checking with the college(s) they plan to attend. Start with the financial aid office.
- Using the UtahFutures.org Scholarship Search or other sites such as
Grants are awarded to students based on financial need and typically don’t have to be paid back. The U.S. Department of Education uses the information reported in the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to determine your child’s eligibility. Talk to a high school counselor or contact the financial aid office at one of the state’s universities or colleges for more information.
The most common grant is the Federal Pell Grant (max: $5,775 per year for 2017-18, $5,920 per year for 2018-19).
Work-study allows eligible students to earn money through a part-time job. The financial aid or student employment office at the college can help your student find a work-study job. Your student may qualify for a work study job if they submit the FAFSA. Work-study jobs are usually on campus and offer flexible hours. They come with financial aid benefits, and they can give your student work experience related to their major in college (such as working in a chemistry lab, tutoring center, or campus business office).
A student loan is money your student borrows to help pay for college expenses such as tuition, fees, books, and housing. Remember: loans have to be paid back with interest—even if they don’t graduate. Student loans can be borrowed from the federal government (federal student loans) or from banks (private student loans). Used wisely and only when needed, student loans can be a great resource to help your student finish their education in a timely manner.
If your student needs to take out student loans, research all terms and conditions first. It’s best for them to borrow only 8-10% of the expected income upon graduation, and borrow federal student loans first.
Federal Direct Loans: are variable and fixed interest loans. In some cases, the interest is not applied until six months after your child leaves school. This type of loan is called a Direct Subsidized Loan. In other cases, the interest begins to accrue immediately. This type of loan is referred to as a Direct Unsubsidized Loan.
Federal Direct PLUS Loans: Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students (PLUS) are available to parents with good credit histories. These loans are for education expenses for dependent children enrolled at least half time in an eligible program at an eligible college. If you take out a PLUS loan, you’re responsible for repayment. The loan cannot be transferred to your child.