A quality college education remains a top priority for many American high school seniors and their families, while the ability to finance college remains difficult. Over the past few decades, tuition prices have raised two to three times faster than the rate of inflation, making college seem unattainable. Worse yet, many families have too much annual income to qualify for federal financial aid, even though they cannot fund their child's entire college bill. Thankfully, there are options for students and their families.

Check for in-state tuition breaks at public universities. All 50 states offer tuition breaks for students who enroll in public institutions within their home state. Federal aid may be off the table, but state money can help ease the burden.

Consider joining the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) or other military branches. This represents a significant time commitment to the United States Armed Forces, at least four years of active military service following graduation, but your college expenses will be partially paid or paid in full. Consult with your family before enlisting in these programs.

Research merit-based scholarships offered by the desired university. Colleges offer scholarships for specific programs, hobbies or even the applicant's heritage. The department of your major may also grant scholarships to its students. Seek every potential opportunity available to you and apply.

Research scholarships offered by public and private organizations in the community. Local churches, businesses and organizations often award scholarships to students, as well as public organizations like boys' and girls' clubs. The search requires hours of scouring and dedication, but the thousands you could earn are worth the commitment.

Find part-time employment through your university or in the local community. While these jobs will most likely not finance your entire tuition, they will provide cash flow and allow you to make payments and have additional spending money. Some part-time jobs can turn into full-time jobs, so be sure to work hard. Summer jobs can also help.

Apply for student loans. For families who cannot cover all the expenses out of pocket, student loans are the only alternative. The major national banks offer student loan programs for both parents and students, and they will pick up whatever scholarships will not. These must be repaid with interest following graduation, but borrowing is generally the only way to fully fund a contemporary college education.

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