Options for Funding Education: A Parent’s Guide to College Planning

Rolled diploma and graduation cap with dollars inside

College can be an investment in your child’s future but figuring out how to pay for college can be tricky. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

At Grand Canyon University, we understand that each student’s financial plan is unique and offers viable financing solutions. GCU is a private Christian education that can be affordable with plenty of different options for funding education. 

Several funding methods may be available to GCU students, such as institutional aid, outside scholarships, federal financial aid and cash payment plans.

In This Article:

Options for Funding Education: Start With the FAFSA

The first step is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). As the name of the FAFSA implies, the form can help you to apply for and determine eligibility for various federal student aid through grants and loans.1 

There are certain items and documents you may need to fill out the form, which may need to be completed every year your child attends college. Items you will likely need when filling out the FAFSA may include:

  • Social Security numbers
  • Tax records
  • Records of untaxed income (e.g. child support)
  • Records of all assets

Be sure you do not mail original documents, as you’ll need these records in the future, as well. When filling out the FAFSA online, save your progress as you go. You do not need to complete the entire form in one session.

Avoid Loans — Earn Scholarships

Scholarships can help when trying to figure out how to pay for college without loans. Scholarships are often offered by outside organizations, as well as opportunities for scholarships at the university you are applying for. 

These organizations typically set up scholarship funds for students who display qualities they want to raise awareness about. Scholarships are typically available to a wide range of individuals, and eligibility criteria vary depending on the scholarship program. Common factors that can determine eligibility for scholarships may include academic achievement, financial need, field of study, extracurricular involvement, specific demographics (e.g., ethnicity, gender, or region) and other qualifications set by the scholarship provider.2

In addition to outside organizations, universities themselves may offer scholarships. For example, Grand Canyon University offers a variety of scholarship options for both traditional on-campus and online students. GCU has also compiled a list of outside scholarships that our incoming students may wish to apply to.

Apply for Grants

Grants are awarded based on need. Unlike loans, grants do not have to be repaid.4 In order to be considered for federal grants, students must fill out the FAFSA.

The application window now opens as early as Oct. 1, which is a departure from the previous Jan. 1 start date. It’s recommended that you complete yours as quickly as possible since some awards are subject to availability.3

In addition to federal grant opportunities, students may be eligible for university-offered grants. Talk to university counselor at GCU about the scholarship and grant opportunities that your child may qualify for. 

A Parent’s Guide to College Planning: A Look at Loans

Loans can offer additional options for funding education. Loans are offered to students with the goal of paying off education-related expenses, such as tuition, room and board and textbooks.4 

Loans can be available from both private and federal institutions and must be repaid, typically with interest. However, many student loans are offered at low interest rates and, in general, students are not required to start making payments until after they have graduated.5

There are numerous student loan options available, including the U.S. Department of Education’s (DE) federal student loan programs. The two main loan programs are the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program (the DE is the lender) and the Federal Perkins Loan Program (the school is the lender).6

Consider the following specific loan options:6

  • Direct subsidized loans are provided for eligible undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need.
  • Direct unsubsidized loans are provided for eligible undergraduate, graduate and professional students who aren’t required to demonstrate financial need.
  • Direct PLUS loans are provided for graduate or professional students or parents of dependent undergraduate students to pay for education costs not covered by other aid.
  • Direct consolidation loans combine all eligible federal student loans into a single loan with a single loan servicer.

Federal student loans differ from private student loans and offer an array of benefits such as:6

  • Repayment starts after graduation
  • Fixed or lower interest rates
  • Qualification for a subsidized loan in which the government pays interest
  • Typically, no credit check or cosigner
  • Interest may be tax-deductible
  • No prepayment penalty fee

Do Colleges Offer Payment Plans?

Payment plans can make a college education more affordable by spreading out payments over a longer period of time. Students who wish to set up such a plan should contact their financial counselor.

GCU realizes each student’s financial situation is unique, and we can create a personalized budget for your student detailing the estimated costs they may incur while attending the university for an academic year. These costs include tuition, housing, meal plans, books, student health insurance and other miscellaneous fees. Once the estimated costs are determined, we can review the student’s eligibility for additional funding sources, including scholarships. Finally, from there, we can decide if a cash payment plan is needed.

The GCU admissions team is available to answer questions and help guide you through the financing process. For more information about tuition and financing at GCU, fill out the form on this page to speak with a university counselor. 

1 Federal Student Aid. (2023). 2023-24 FAFSA Form. Retrieved Oct. 30, 2023. 

2 Federal Student Aid. (n.d.). Find and apply for as many scholarships as you can—it’s free money for college or career school! Retrieved Nov. 3, 2023. 

3 U.S. Department of Education. (2023). 3 Types of FAFSA® Deadlines You Should Pay Attention To. Retrieved Oct. 30, 2023. 

4 Federal Student Aid (n.d.). Types of Financial Aid: Loans, Grants, and Work-Study Programs. Retrieved Nov. 3, 2023.

5 Federal Student Aid. (2023). When it comes to paying for college, career school, or graduate school, federal student loans can offer several advantages over private student loans. Retrieved Oct. 30, 2023. 

6 Federal Student Aid. (2023). Federal student loans for college or career school are an investment in your future. Retrieved Oct. 30, 2023. 

Approved by the assistant vice president of GCU marketing on Nov. 7, 2023.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.