Pay for College

Explore college costs and plan how you'll pay for your degree or certificate.

College Payment: When and How

Learn about some common payment methods

Cost of attendance ingredients

Paying by academic period

Payment methods

Below, you'll find a short introduction to common school billing processes and payment options. Because these things differ among schools, be sure to request specific payment deadlines, payment options and other applicable payment processing information directly from the school that you plan to attend.

Cost of attendance ingredients

As you compare schools, you'll notice that many colleges offer a cost of attendance on their publications and websites. You might think that the cost of attendance is the cost of tuition. In fact, this number is an estimate of most school-related expenses for a typical academic year. A school's cost of attendance, or COA, includes estimates for:

  • Tuition and fees
  • Room and board
  • Books and supplies
  • Transportation
  • Other expenses

Here's something to keep in mind: You may pay some of these expenses, such as tuition and fees, and on-campus housing (if you stay in a dorm) directly to the school. Other expenses are not paid directly to the school. For example, if you live in an apartment off campus, you pay rent to the landlord. Remember that simply because an amount is included in the school's COA does not mean that you owe that amount. Consult your school's net price calculator to get an estimate of cost to you.

Paying by academic period

Although the COA provides estimated expenses for the entire academic year, schools generally charge you by the semester, the quarter, the trimester, or some other time period. For example, if a school that uses semesters lists annual tuition and fees as $5,000 in its COA, it will charge you $2,500 in the fall semester and $2,500 in the spring semester. If the school operates by trimesters, you would be charged in three trimesters (i.e., approximately $1,666 each trimester).

Payment methods

Many schools offer several methods to pay the bills.


What it is

Keep in mind

Financial aid

Grants, scholarships, work-study, loans

Financial aid is generally automatically applied to your school bills first. Remaining financial aid is released to you for other expenses such as books and supplies. Be aware that in some cases, financial aid may not be sufficient to pay all of your educational expenses.

Installment plan

Plan that staggers your payment dates throughout the semester

You may be charged a small fee to use an installment plan.

Tuition or emergency loan

Short-term loan provided by school for tuition payment or financial emergencies

Repayment periods, terms, and interest rates vary.

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