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How to pay for college

Latina grads from Linn-Benton Community College smiling with leis and flowers


You can afford college. Explore ways you can pay for education after high school.

What college costs

The cost of college can include:

Tuition and fees

The costs for enrolling as a student and taking classes. Fees help cover administrative costs and support services.

Housing and food

Also known as room and board. You may be able to live on-campus, off-campus, or at home.

Personal expenses

Make a budget to figure out how much you will need to cover your cell phone, laundry, and other regular expenses.

Books and supplies

Unlike high school, you must get your own books and supplies for each class.


Factor in the costs for how you will get to and get around your college campus.

Health insurance

Required by most colleges. Some colleges offer insurance plans of their own.

Colleges post their tuition and fees on their website—the “sticker” price. This can seem like an overwhelming amount! But most students get financial aid to help pay for college so they don’t end up paying full price. You can use a net price calculator to get an estimate of what your actual cost might be.

How to pay for college

There are many ways to pay for college. This can include financial aid, job earnings, savings, and support from parents or family.

Financial aid

Financial aid is money to help pay for college. Everyone can get financial aid, regardless of income, GPA or citizenship.

You can get financial aid based on need or merit. Need is what your family can contribute to college costs. Merit refers to achievement in academics, sports, or other areas.

 Types of financial aid What is it Pay back? Merit Need
Grants Money from the state or federal government or the college No  
Scholarships Colleges or organizations give money for good grades, community service, athletic ability, or other unique personal qualities. No  
Work-study Provides part-time jobs, often on campus, to help pay for college costs. No  
Loans Money to borrow for college from the federal government, bank, organization, or person Yes  

College savings accounts

It’s never too early or late to start saving money for college. There are many types of college savings accounts. Discuss options with a bank or financial institution. Common types include:

  • 529 plans that are not taxed
  • Individual Development Accounts

Other resources

There are other ways to help pay for college. These include:

How to pay for college in Oregon

There is financial aid just for Oregonians, including undocumented and DACA*-mented students. Learn how to apply.

Oregonians also have opportunities to save money for education or training beyond high school.


In-state tuition

  • If you live in Oregon or otherwise qualify, you pay a lower price, known as in-state tuition, at public colleges and universities.
  • You can pay a lower price at some public 2-year and 4-year colleges in 14 western states through the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE).


  • OSAC has over 600 scholarships just for Oregon students.
  • Many organizations have scholarships just for Oregon students.
  • Oregon colleges have scholarships for their students.

College savings

Other ways to make college more affordable

Do your best in high school.

Some colleges require you to take placement exams before you can enroll in regular classes. If you have to take remedial classes you still have to pay for them, but they don’t count towards your degree.

Take college credit in high school.

You may be able to transfer dual credit, AP, and IB classes to count towards your degree. Another option: take Modern States courses and the corresponding CLEP exams.

Plan your classes and take a full credit load.

Many students spend more time in college than they need to. Talk to an academic advisor at your school to plan what classes you need to take that will count to your degree.

Consider an apprenticeship.

These pay you for on-the-job training for specific trades while you also take classes.

Join the military.

You can get additional financial aid before, during, or after service.