Financial aid: University of Phoenix’s working student’s guide to paying for school
By Elizabeth Exline
December 15, 2021 • 4 minute read
You’ve decided to get your degree, but how will you pay for it? That’s a question facing many prospective students. It’s common knowledge that financial aid options are available for those who qualify for it, but what exactly are those options and how do you qualify? Here are some of the ways you can make paying for college a reality.
Start with a budget
Krystal Christopher, a senior
finance advisor at University of Phoenix, knows firsthand about juggling work,
life and college. She was a working mother when she
completed her degree, and now she helps other people achieve their dreams.
Christopher recommends establishing
a budget before you do anything else. Once you know what you can comfortably
afford, you’ll know what you need in the way of financial aid, and you can
begin exploring options. Leverage free online tools and calculators to help understand the full cost
of college, Christopher says. The goal, after all, is to minimize debt as much
At University of Phoenix, financial aid begins with education.
That’s why the University maintains various resources to help students
understand the cost of its programs and the options to help fund it. For
example, the University offers a free net price calculator that estimates financial aid as well
as courses and tools through iGrad.
Wondering how you will pay
for college? Learn more about federal financial aid here.
How to apply for federal financial aid
If you’re applying for
federal financial aid, including grants and loans, you will need to submit
a Free Application for Federal Student
Aid (FAFSA®) form. This is an application that
will be your starting point for seeking federal financial aid.
Make sure you fill it out completely
with tax information and the colleges you’re applying to. June 30 is the
deadline to submit the FAFSA form for each school year. Some universities,
like University of Phoenix, operate year-round, and will work with you to ensure
you submit the FAFSA form for the right academic year.
Pro tip: Make sure you select the correct
program you need tuition support for. If you’re applying for a bachelor’s
degree, for example, don’t select a graduate program. That would automatically
eliminate you from receiving a grant.
You don’t have to commit to
anything right away, but you can see what you may qualify for in terms of
grants, a federally subsidized loan or an unsubsidized
loan. You can use that information to better budget for college and see your
Grants, college scholarships and tuition reimbursement
You should receive an email listing what you’re eligible for, in terms of
federal grant money and federal loans, just a few days after filling out a
FAFSA form. The maximum Federal Pell Grant award is $6,495 for the 2021-22 award year.
While you typically don’t
have to pay back federal grants, there are eligibility requirements that you must meet to receive a
Tuition reimbursement and employer benefits
The next step after receiving
your federal grant estimate should be a discussion with your employer’s HR
office. Many employers offer a tuition reimbursement plan that could pay for
some or all of your tuition. This is another way to
reduce your out-of-pocket costs.
Christopher recommends asking
your employer about any opportunities they might have to help you pay down your
student loans. Employers need qualified talent, and these plans are a great way
to find and retain valuable employees. Even if your employer doesn’t currently
offer a tuition reimbursement plan, Christopher recommends asking them to
After exploring federal
grants and tuition reimbursement plans, you should apply to scholarships
offered by the colleges you’ve identified. Talk to their financial aid advisors
to identify any scholarships offered by the universities that could help pay
In addition to scholarships
offered by your preferred college(s), consider applying for scholarships
outside those offered by schools. And don’t be intimidated by the scholarship process,
either. Staying organized and paying attention to details is half of the
application experience. And remember: Putting in the effort to research and
apply for multiple scholarships can pay off in more free money for college.
Pro tip: Explore all opportunities to cover
college tuition before looking at loan options. Beyond grants, scholarships and tuition reimbursement, identify savings
that could be used to help pay for college. Doublecheck to see if you
have a 529 out in your name. You
might also be able to set up a payment plan where you pay a small monthly
amount toward your tuition.
If you still need funding to
cover college, you may want to consider a federal loan. This could be used to
help cover college tuition and expenses, like purchasing a laptop. You will
have to start paying back the loan, with interest, six months after you stop
Remember the FAFSA? That same
form will also include eligible federal loan amounts. There are three types of
federal loans: subsidized, unsubsidized and PLUS
Subsidized Stafford Loans are income-based and feature the same
interest rate as the unsubsidized loans for undergraduate programs. For
subsidized loans, the federal government covers the accruing interest while a
student is attending school.
Loans are similar toSubsidized Stafford Loans, however
difference is that interest isn't being covered by anyone just accruing month
Both are at 3.73 percent as of February 2021.
Repayment terms are the same for both subsidized and unsubsidized. For both subsidized and unsubsidized loans,
payment isn’t required until 6 months after graduation or 6 months after dropping below
half-time enrollment status.
PLUS loans are available for graduate students and parents of dependent
undergraduate students at a higher interest rate (6.28% as of July 2021-2022)
than an unsubsidized loan. There are Graduate Plus and Parent Plus loans (for
dependent students) and both require a credit check.
Pro Tip: Choose a loan option that works for
you but remember to borrower responsibly. By limiting the amount of loan money you accept to what is necessary, you will reduce your
repayment burden down the road.
If you can, Christopher
suggests making monthly interest payments on unsubsidized student loans while
attending college. You can factor this into your monthly budget using a free
college-planning tool. Consider it an expense like a cable bill or groceries.
Paying the interest that
accrues on your loans during college means paying less after college. It also
helps you get into the habit of paying your student loans.