How to Pay for College in Arizona

Congratulations! You’ve made the decision to head off to college and you may have even received your first few acceptance letters. But after all the excitement dies down, the dread of how to pay for college begins to set in. From tuition, room and board, to textbooks and more, the cost of college has been going up for many years. In fact, according to the Arizona Students’ Association, the total cost of attendance has risen 63 percent in recent years.

Luckily, whether you’re a future undergraduate or graduate student, or transitioning from a community college to a four-year school, there are a number of ways to find the money you need to help pay for a college education.

Go for Scholarships Before Student Loans

Financially speaking, free scholarship money is always better than a loan. Scholarships are money given to students based on merit, academics, achievement, or financial need. There are thousands of scholarships available to students, but it can be difficult to sort through them all to determine which ones are best for you. Fortunately, there are many resources that can help with the search:

  • Scholarship search tools: The U.S. Department of Labor offers a free scholarship search tool through CareerOneStop. This tool allows you to search by keyword to make identifying scholarships you may qualify for easier.
  • Local organizations: Many nonprofits, civic groups, foundations, and local businesses offer scholarships, so it’s best to connect with those near you to learn about specific requirements. If you are involved with these types of organizations, ask a leader you know for more information. If you’re not, you can always contact organizations near you via call or email.
  • Professional organizations: Larger organizations related to your study of interest may offer scholarships to students who want to enter that field.
  • Counselors: Guidance counselors typically have broad knowledge of scholarships offered and may provide assistance on those that appeal to you. Certain high schools even offer their own scholarship program, so be sure to check if your school does.
  • Employers: Some employers are now offering scholarships and tuition-repayment benefits. Ask your employer or ask your parents to check with their employers to see if they offer these programs.
  • Financial aid office: Contact the financial aid offices at colleges and universities you’re interested in. Typically, they will have information on scholarships within the area or will be able to provide direction on additional resources.

So when you’re reviewing your options, always apply for scholarships first—but by no means rule out any loans that might make sense as part of your overall funding strategy.

Note: We offer a Community Service Scholarship to high school students across the Valley who actively volunteer in the community that ranges from $2,500 to $10,000! In addition to our scholarship, we have a paid internship program that can help you save for your tuition.

What Other Kinds of Financial Aid are Available?

A college degree can be one of the few good reasons to borrow money, and financial aid comes in many forms to help alleviate the upfront cost of college:

  • Grants: Need-based funds awarded to students who meet certain criteria.
  • Loans: Money borrowed from banks, organizations or government institutions. This includes any private loans or federal loans.
    (Note: Private lenders typically require a credit score and credit history check. So if you do not have established credit, you may need a co-borrower.)
  • Work study: Paid part-time jobs granted to students as part of a need-based federal financial aid program.
  • Other means: Programs such as Veterans’ benefits, Tribal aid, college savings plans, and more.

If loans fit your financial needs, you can potentially qualify for some pretty good loan deals with low interest rates, flexible repayment plans, fixed rates and other benefits with private and federal loans. By completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you may receive federal loans such as the Perkins Loan or the Stafford Loan.

Whether you’re a student seeking out financial assistance or a parent of a future college student, check out our loan options with Sallie Mae® to see if they fit your borrowing needs!

Financial Aid Specifically for Arizona Residents

There are a number of college grants and scholarships for Arizona students available from a variety of resources. Try starting your search with the Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education (ACPE), which offers many different state grant and scholarship programs. Below are just some of the programs ACPE offers:

  • AZLEAP grant: The Arizona Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership (LEAP) Grant provides up to $2,500 worth of financial aid to low-income undergraduate students.
  • SLEAP grant: Related to the LEAP program, the Arizona Special Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership (SLEAP) Grant provides up to $2,000 to sophomore, junior, or senior undergraduates pursuing degrees related to science, technology, engineering, or mathematics.
  • PFAP grant: To help community college graduates transfer to private four-year colleges, the Private Postsecondary
  • Arizona Teacher Student Loan Program: This program requires junior and senior college students to enter the public teaching profession in Arizona after graduation in exchange for a forgivable loan of $7,000 per academic year for up to three years if a financial need is present.

Save for It

Another way to protect your pocketbook from the sticker shock of going to college is to plan ahead and save. But there’s an alternative method other than socking it away in your standard savings account. State-operated education savings plans called 529 Plans, named after the Internal Revenue Code that created them in 1996, give families special tax benefits while they save for college. The Arizona Family College Savings Program is the 529 college savings program sponsored by the State of Arizona, and its benefits far surpass those of a regular savings account:

  • Tax-deferred earnings
  • Federal income and Arizona state tax-free qualified distributions
  • Professional money management
  • Wide range of investment choices
  • No income restrictions
  • Assets are excluded when determining financial-aid awards
  • Tax incentive for Arizona residents

For some people, heading off to college is a great move to ensure your future well-being, but determining how to pay for it can be quite stressful. Nonetheless, we want to ensure you have the tools to get the most out of your education without having to compromise your financial health. Whether you’re saving for college, applying for scholarships or grants, or looking to borrow money with a student loan, there are many solid strategies that can ease the financial burden of attending college. You owe it to yourself to research the best options for you, and take advantage of the assistance available for Arizona students!

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The material presented here is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to be used as financial, investment, or legal advice.