You Can Afford College in Down Economy

Tips and sites to help you find the money

College tuition is getting more expensive, while for many families -- their college savings have plunged along with the stock market.

The good news is, there's billions of dollars in financial aid available.

There's no time to wait. Parents and students should be contacting financial aid offices right now and starting on the applications.The first step is filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

There are also extensive scholarships and grants available, from local unions, small businesses and places of worship.  Contact any group you or your immediate family are associated with and ask them directly.

Of course, if you can also try to win one or more competitive scholarships.  In addition to those national scholarships, most colleges and universities offer scholarships of their own.  Contact your school's registrar and financial aid offices directly to find out about them.

If you're a planner who has time to save some money for your kid's education, consider using an official 529 college savings plan

If you need to borrow money, federal loans have lower interest rates and more flexibility when it comes to payment plans.

Here's a site to help you estimate how much you'll need for college and look for ways to save.

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