26 Paying for College For 2017-2018, the average cost of attendance (tuition, fees, room and board, books, transportation and personal expenses) for one year at a public four- year college (in-state) was approximately $25,000. The average cost for one year at a private four-year college was approximately $50,000. College is expensive, and students today are borrowing more and more money to pay for their education. The average 2017 college loan debt was over $25,000. Students who default on their loans soon find that being delinquent or de- faulting on a loan has serious consequences. Their wages may be garnished, they may face legal action, and their credit rating is damaged—which can make it difficult to rent an apartment, buy a car, or even get a cell phone plan. Smart students explore their financial aid options, look for ways to cut college costs, and work to minimize their student loan debt. Financial Aid Overview Financial aid is money that is given, earned, or lent to help students pay for theireducation.Exceptformerit-basedscholarships,financialaidisgenerally awarded on the basis of financial need. Thefourtypes offinancialaidaregrants,scholarships,loans,andwork-study. Grants and scholarships are considered “free money.” Loans and work-study are considered “self-help” programs. u Grant – money given, usually because of financial need u Scholarship – money awarded for exceptional academic achievement, outstanding talent, and/or financial need u Loan – borrowed money that must be repaid u Work-Study – money earned by working at a part-time job Financial aid is often awarded on a “first come, first served” basis, so applica- tions should be completed early.