Do you have a son or daughter heading for college this fall? Along with the requisite cell phone, CD/DVD player and wardrobe, are they prepared for the costs and financing decisions when heading off to one of more than 4,200 colleges and universities in the United States?

As reported by the U.S. Census, more than 17.6 million students were enrolled in the nation’s colleges and universities last fall. So you’re not alone in making some tough financial decisions.

During the 2005-2006 academic year, The College Board reports that the estimated average annual cost of attendance was $31,916 at a four-year private college, $15,566 at a four-year public college and $11,692 at a two-year college. As the saying goes, paying for college is like buying a car every year — the decision is whether it’s new or used.

Every year, the federal government makes more than $81 billion available to help 10 million families and students finance a postsecondary education at one of the more than 6,200 colleges, universities and trade schools that participate in the programs authorized by the U.S. government.

As noted by these statistics, paying for their education and managing spending are critical to a student’s success in school.

Scholarships and Work Study

To find scholarship opportunities, start your search early -— December or January for the next school year — and utilize the resources around you. Begin with your high school guidance counselor for a list of possible resources. Next, check with the college financial aid office. Most state and many colleges offer scholarships. Think small — competition can be tough for large awards. Smaller awards ($1,000 and less) typically have less competition and are easier to obtain. Finally, the Internet and organization Web sites are excellent places to search. Remember, this information should always be free.

For example, at, you can apply to be one of 30 high school seniors to receive a $1,000 U.S. Bank Internet Scholarship. Over the past 11 years, U.S. Bank has awarded more than $290,000 in scholarship funding for this program. Scholarship award recipients are selected through a random drawing process. You must be planning to attend an accredited two- or four-year college full time next fall. The U.S. Bank Web site also features a powerful scholarship search engine that contains 1.68 million scholarships and awards worth $7.69 billion.

The Federal Work Study program gives students the opportunity to earn money for school and gain valuable work experience. It’s available to both undergraduate and graduate students with financial need. The amount you can earn depends on several factors: need, other aid received and availability of school funds.

Student Loans — Covering the Big Costs

Student loans are some of the most commonly used financial tools. Student loans are funds borrowed from a financial institution or federal or state government. Education loans must be repaid. There are at least three types of education loans.

A Federal Perkins Loan is a federal loan program administered by colleges. It’s available to both undergraduate and graduate students and is based on need and the availability of government funds. The annual interest rate is five percent. Repayment begins nine months after the student leaves school or is less than a half-time student.

Federal Stafford (student) Loans and Federal PLUS (parent) Loans are available through financial institutions, such as U.S. Bank, that participate in the FFEL program or through the federal government in the direct loan program. Fixed rates are 6.8 percent for Stafford loans and 8.5 percent for PLUS loans.

Financial institution (or supplemental) loans are for students (or their parents) who attend participating colleges and graduate schools. They are not based on need. As you determine the best way to finance your education, remember to consider the full range of student financial aid options available to you. Supplemental loans are often used to supplement federal student loans when they are not sufficient to cover the full cost of education. U.S. Bank offers a number of supplemental loans where students can borrow up to the entire annual cost of attendance, minus other financial aid received, at competitive interest rates.

Information on U.S. Bank student loans can be found on the website at or by phone at (800) 242-1200. Even if you think you won’t qualify for college financial aid, try anyway. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Courtesy of ARAcontent