6 Myths About the Cost of College

6 Myths About the Cost of College

  • by
  • Mar 15, 2021
$100 bill as a puzzle

One of the biggest concerns about college is the cost and how to pay for it. Don't be fooled by these common myths!

Myth: College is unaffordable.

You can pay for college—in fact, most students don't pay full price, so don't rule out a college simply because of the cost. Students and families can use a Net Price Calculator to get an estimate of what they will actually pay after including some types of financial aid.

Most students pay for college in a variety of ways including financial aid, earnings from part-time or full-time jobs, savings and money from parents and family.

Myth: I can't get financial aid.

Everyone can get financial aid. The FAFSA and ORSAA forms are free, so there’s no reason not to apply. No matter your circumstance, you will be eligible for some type of financial aid (grants, scholarships, work-study and/or loans) to help pay for college.

  • Part-time student? Federal financial aid is available for students who attend at least half time.
  • Older sibling in college that didn't get aid? The number of family members in college make a difference on financial aid packages.
  • Undocumented? Oregon offers state aid for eligible students who complete the ORSAA, and many scholarships don't require U.S. citizenship.
  • Not low-income? The federal government has a formula that determines the amount your family is expected to contribute to your college costs. Any costs above that have a chance to be covered by financial aid. Plus, there are a few sources of financial aid that are not need-based such as the unsubsidized Stafford loan and PLUS loan.

Myth: The cost of college only includes tuition.

College costs can include tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, personal expenses, and transportation. Most colleges also require students to have health insurance.

Consider all of these costs when choosing a college. Compare financial aid offers carefully, and create a monthly budget based on your projected needs.

Myth: It's hard to apply for aid.

  • When students and families gather all their information ahead of time, filling out the FAFSA or ORSAA usually takes less than an hour.
  • Scholarship applications can vary in length. Work on them a few hours a week and you could earn thousands of dollars for college.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Ask a counselor or teacher, attend an event or find support online.

Myth: It's too late to save money for college.

It’s never too early or too late to save money for college! There are even special savings accounts just for paying for college.

Any amount you and your family are able to save will help and likely won’t affect how much financial aid you receive. Here's why: Under the federal financial aid formula, what matters most is the parents’ income. Savings typically have little impact in the government calculation of Expected Family Contribution.

Myth: I should avoid taking out student loans—I don't want to be in debt!

Despite the horror stories you often hear in the media, just 54% of 2019 graduates of Oregon 4-year colleges had student loan debt, with an average debt load of $27,542.

That said, it's important to understand student loans so you can borrow responsibly.

  • In general, federal loans are better than private loans, and subsidized are better than unsubsidized. Parent loans should be a last resort.
  • Build a budget first and accept only what you need. You don’t have to borrow the full amount offered to you in your financial aid package.

Originally published April 2018.