Fall tuition bill? 4 steps to help keep the stress out of paying for school - VTDigger (2024)

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Fall tuition bill? 4 steps to help keep the stress out of paying for school - VTDigger (1)

Summer is in full force, but students and families will soon be facing an important deadline: paying the fall tuition bill. As you anticipate new courses, meeting friends, and living on or off campus, a crucial “to-do” before you start packing is determining how you’ll cover tuition and expenses. It can be overwhelming, especially when you don’t have the money on hand.

But that’s where VSAC, Vermont’s nonprofit state agency for higher education, can help. VSAC can help you to apply for all the free aid and federal student loans your family is eligible for, and then assist you in comparing your options for covering any remaining costs. In many cases, that can involve taking out an additional education loan. In fact, 7 out of 10 Vermont families need to borrow to pay for education costs.

VSAC provides planning resources, financial aid help, 529 savings accounts, and low-cost education loans. Our goal is to help you reduce your costs for college and training and borrow only what you need. And when it comes to tuition bills, we have some tips to make sure you’re paying only what you need to pay, when you need to pay it.

These four steps will get you started.

1. Find your tuition bill and “dueby” date

Tuition due dates vary, but a lot of schoolsrequire payment for the fall semester asearly as August 1. Most schools send an email with a portal link letting you know your bill is available to view and pay. And payments can be sent digitally, via check, or sometimes paid with cash once you’re on campus.

Emails typically go to the attending student’s address, so once you’ve been accepted to a program or have chosen your courses, check your email periodically to stay on top of your tuition bill.If you haven’t received an email or mailed letter, call your school’s financial aid office. Emails can sometimes go to spam, andlate fees can be costly, so be proactive in locating your bill.If a parent or guardian is helping you pay your tuition bill, you can ask the system to generate an invitation so that they can view and often pay bills via the dashboard as well.

2. Review your tuition bill

Tuition billsshow charges for courses, fees, living expenses, and subtractany credits from scholarships or grantsthat will reduce the amount you owe. Take a careful look at the bill that’s sent to you. Confirm that everything matches up with what you had in mind for the semester. Mistakes can happen, so always do the following:

Check your charges

These include tuition, room and board, and fees that are mostly unavoidable(student activity fees, lab fees, specific program fees).

Confirm your financial aid “credits”

Your financial aidoffer details the amount of “credit” the school will receive by way ofgrants and scholarships. Every student’s first step should be filling out aFAFSA. If you’re a Vermont resident attending college or training anywhere, apply for aVermont Grant.

If a grant or scholarship you received isn’t listed, check with the financial aid office to cross-verify eligibility and receipt of the funds. Sometimes you may need to take additional steps to have the aid applied to your bill.One notable aid is work-study. If you qualify for work-study, how will the money be paid to you or the school: in advance, or once you’ve completed your work requirements?

Look for unnecessary fees

Some tuition bills include health insurance, meal plans, and fees that don’t reflect what you need. You may already be on your parent’s health insurance, and if you’re living on your own and plan to cook at home, you shouldn’t be paying for a meal plan. If anything seems unnecessary, call your school’s financial aid office to ask to remove it from your bill.

3. Develop a payment strategy and stick to it

After your financial offers have been calculated in, you might still have a balance on your fall tuition bill. Additionally, don’t forget about costs for transportation, books, and personal items that aren’t part of your actual bill but are expenses you will need to cover. Here are two important questions to ask when planning to pay your tuition bill.

How much can I cover using savings?

A savings account like VSAC’s529 college savings plancan reduce your borrowing needs. Although these plans are meant to be longer-term investment options, consider a principal plus interest plan to set aside monthly funds. In this manner it becomes almost like a tuition payment plan. The VT529 plan:

  • qualifies for a 10%Vermont state income tax crediton qualified annual contributions forhigher education
  • can be used at eligible higher education institutions throughout the U.S. and abroad
  • has a low minimum contribution; open an account with just $25!

Is there a tuition payment plan?

Ask the financial aid office about tuition payment options. Whether through a part-time job orfinancial support from family and friends, you may be able to make monthly payments during the semester to help pay some of your remaining fall tuition bill over several months.

4. If you still have a funding gap, be “loan smart”

If you still owe money after you’ve tallied what you can cover with free aid, savings, income, and tuition payment plans, federal student loans are your next consideration.

Keep in mind that with any loan offer,you can always accept less or decline the offercompletely. While it’s tempting to say “yes” to everything offered, just because you can, that doesn’t mean you should.

VSAC recommends that students first borrow federal student loans because they traditionally have low rates and favorable repayment options.

Additional funding after federal student loans is available in the form of a federal parent loan (called a PLUS loan) or a private education loan.

Pause and Compare!

Student loans aren’t created equal. After you’ve maxed out on federal student loans, dedicate time to comparing loans from private lenders, including, nonprofit lenders such as VSAC. Three considerations for all loans are:

  • Interest rates
  • Fees
  • Repayment options

All threewill impact what you’ll pay for the life of the loan.

Also keep in mind:

  • Rates are often listed in a range. Borrowersmay not qualify for the lowest rate.
  • Understand the rate you qualify for before signing a loan
  • If you don’t get the rate you expected, cancel your application and shop around.

Afew percentage points can make the difference and drastically increase the amount you pay back.VSAC offers fixed interest rates, so you’ll always know what you’re expected to pay during the life of the loan. Additionally, VSAC doesn’t charge origination fees, and offers multiple repayment options to fit your needs.

VSAC is here to help

VSAC understands each family has unique situations. We assist Vermont families in applying for as much free aid as possible while guiding them in reducing their borrowing costs. Ultimately, we want to help families understand their options so that students get the best education for the lowest cost possible, and families borrow only what they need. If student loans are part of your equation, check out VSAC’s My Education Loans Guide to help you get started learning the basics of borrowing.

Vermont families have entrusted VSAC as their source for information, counseling, financial aid, and loans to achieve education goals for almost 60 years. Learn about VSAC’sstudent and parent loansfor undergraduate and graduate education.

Still have questions or need more information?E-mail VSAC atinfo@vsac.org or speak to a Vermont-based counselor Monday–Friday, 8 a.m.to 4:30 p.m.at 800-226-1029.

This story is produced by Vermont Student Assistance Corp., created by the Vermont Legislature in 1965 as apublic nonprofit agency, to advocate for Vermont students and their families to ensure they achieve their education goals. Our vision is to create opportunities for all Vermont students, but particularly for those—of any age—who believe the doors to higher education are closed to them. We begin by helping families save for education with Vermont’s state-sponsored 529 savings program. To help Vermonters plan and pay for college or career training, our counselors work with students in nearly every Vermont middle school and high school, and again as adults. Our grant and scholarship programs attract national recognition, and our loan programs and loan forgiveness programs are saving Vermont families thousands of dollars in interest. Visitvsac.orgto learn more.

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Fall tuition bill? 4 steps to help keep the stress out of paying for school - VTDigger (2024)
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