Paying for College

How to pay for college may be one of the first major financial decisions you will make in your lifetime. The decisions you make today will impact your future ability to buy a car, buy a home and save for retirement.  Taking time now to make a plan will put you in control of your money. Determining how much you will have to pay for college and how is not easy. Consider making an appointment with a financial coach to help you figure it out!

Follow the steps below to understand the costs of college and to make a plan to cover those costs.

Step one: How many credit hours you will take per semester?

A credit hour is a unit measuring educational credit. It is based on the number of hours you spend in class each week. For example, you can expect to spend three hours in class each week for a three-credit course.

A full-time student at ACC takes at least four classes per semester (12 or more credit hours). A part-time student is enrolled for fewer than 12 credit hours per semester.

What classes will you take? How many credit hours are those classes? Find your own Award Plan by selecting your Area of Study here.

Step two: What will your tuition and fees be?

Find out if you’re going to pay in-district or out-of-district tuition. Then, based on the number of credit hours you’re going to take, refer to this chart for your tuition and fees.

Step four: Reduce expenses and commit to living like a college student.

Being a college student is temporary. Commit to living like one. Examine your expenses and see if there are any ways you can reduce your expenses. Be clear on what you need versus what you want. You may have to give up some of those wants for a bit, or at least cut way back.

Step five: Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Even if you think you don’t qualify, complete the FAFSA. It’s free. The FAFSA screens your eligibility for need-based grants including the Federal Pell grant. Money you receive from grants you don’t have to repay. Many scholarships will require that you’ve at least completed the FAFSA before considering you for a scholarship.

Need help completing the FAFSA? Visit one of ACC’s Financial Aid Offices, or contact the College Hub Program at Foundation Communities. Tip: You should never pay to have someone complete your FAFSA.

Step six: Apply for scholarships.

ACC Foundation scholarships are the best place for you to start. Free money! Yes, you’ll have to write an essay. And yes, you can do it! It’s worth your time…it’s free money you don’t have to pay back! The scholarship deadline is April 1 for scholarships awarded in the fall semester and October 1 for scholarships awarded in the spring semester. Start now!

Need help completing your scholarship application? Contact the College Hub Program at Foundation Communities.

Step seven: Consider student loans to cover the gaps.

Only after you’ve reduced your expenses, committed to applying for scholarships, and know exactly what your gap is, consider Federal student loans. To receive a Federal student loan, you have to complete the FAFSA (see step five). You may be offered more than what you need…accept only what you need. Also, understand how much you’ll have to pay back once you’re no longer in school by playing with the Repayment Estimator.

Compare Schools

The “Compare Schools” tool from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau allows you to compare the costs of schools you’re considering to see the future impact on your future finances.  Even if you’re just attending Austin Community College this tool is still helpful. It will help you calculate your costs now and see your future student loan payments if you take out student loans.

Student Loans

College Scorecard 

The U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard ensures families have the most up-to-date, comprehensive, and reliable information available on colleges, all in an easy-to-understand format. The site allows visitors to sort and filter their search results to easily compare schools and decide which college makes the most sense when considering the typical costs, average student loan amount, students’ ability to repay their loans, and their future earnings.

My College Money Plan is a free online course to help students and their families learn how to plan for the costs of education or training after high school.

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