The full cost of enrollment (tuition and fees plus room and board) is a college's "sticker price." However, most students pay significantly less than the full sticker price because they qualify for financial aid. So don't write off a college based on its published sticker price. With financial aid, even a very expensive college can turn out to be affordable. Colleges' financial aid packages can consist of institutional scholarships (for academic or athletic merit, funded by the college itself), federal and/or state grants, work-study programs, or loans (based on the FAFSA and offered through a U.S. government entity). These amounts reduce the sticker price to what you can expect to pay out-of-pocket. Use
to help estimate the cost of attending a certain college, or ask the college's Financial Aid office about scholarships that require a separate application process.
So, how does a student cover out-of-pocket costs? Family contributions, income from a part-time job, or private scholarships are all options. Private loans, often with higher interests rates and less flexible payback terms, are not recommended. FastWeb (linked below) is a good resource for identifying private scholarships opportunities. Beware of scholarship scams. You should never have to pay to apply for a scholarship.