How to Pay for College

How are you preparing to pay for college?

College can be affordable. Saving in a tax-advantaged 529 college savings plan such as the Utah Educational Savings Plan (UESP) can help you pay for qualified higher education expenses. Grants, scholarships, work-study jobs, and loans are other ways to pay. The key is to do your research and create a plan.

Utah Educational Savings Plan

UESP is Utah’s official and only tax-advantaged 529 college savings plan. One of the nation’s top 529 plans, UESP 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.


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.

Here are some examples of available grants:

  • The most common grant is the Federal Pell Grant (max: $5,775 per year).
  • The Federal Pell Grant is only available to undergraduate students.
  • There are also several state grant programs that may be available to Utah residents who qualify. Contact the college’s financial aid office for more information on these state grant programs.


Scholarships are awards typically based on unique criteria such as talent, achievement, financial need, etc. Billions of dollars worth of scholarships are available each year to college students across the country. Some scholarships require students to take specific classes, maintain minimal standards during their time in school (such as a minimum GPA), or take a certain number of credit hours per semester.


  • The best place to begin your scholarship searches is with the college(s) your child plans to attend. Check the college financial aid office website for more information.
  • Use the Scholarship Search to find scholarships your child might qualify for.
  • High school counseling centers are another excellent source for researching available scholarships.
  • Once your child has found suitable scholarships, they should apply for them as soon as possible.
  • Some scholarships may require them to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), so be sure to help them complete it.
  • Beware of scholarship scams! Never, ever pay a fee to apply for scholarships.
  • Websites like are great resources to help you apply.

The Utah State Board of Regents offers two merit-based scholarships available to all Utah high school students: the New Century Scholarship and the Regents’ Scholarship.


If you or your child needs to take out student loans, research all terms and conditions first.

  • Borrow only 8-10% of the expected income upon graduation.
  • Borrow federal student loans first.
  • Make sure you contact your lender and arrange to pay the interest on your student loans while your child is in school.

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.

Work-Study Programs

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 child find a work-study job.

FAFSA — The first step to paying for college

File your FAFSA starting October 1, 2016.

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Start saving for college today with the Utah Educational Savings Plan

Learn about the benefits of opening a Utah Educational Savings Plan 529 account.

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Look Locally

There’s a college in Utah that’s right for your child.

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Degrees, Certificates & Majors

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