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Understanding College Expenses: Why Planning for Financial Aid Matters

Updated: Apr 4

In today’s changing economy, the cost of higher education continues to rise, so planning ahead for financial aid is more important than ever. With tuition, fees, and living expenses increasing, students and families should actively look for resources to help pay for their college education. State scholarship and grant programs can provide valuable financial help.

In this blog post, we’ll talk about why planning for financial aid is so important and how securing scholarships and grants from your state can help reduce the cost of college.

The Rising Cost of College

Over the years, college costs – which includes tuition and fees, room and board, textbooks, and other college-related expenses – have increased significantly, far outpacing the rate of inflation. For example, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, from July 2011 to September 2019, consumer prices for college tuition and fees increased by 32%, and from July 2011 to March 2018, the cost of college textbooks increased by 40.6%.

College expenses can add up quickly and put a heavy financial burden on students and their families, making higher education feel out of reach for many.

Why Financial Aid Planning Matters

Planning ahead involves figuring out how much it will cost to go to the college you’d like to attend and finding financial resources to cover all or part of those expenses. This approach can help students and families make informed decisions about what they can afford, and it can lower or eliminate student loan debt.

Looking at options early in the college planning process, can help students:

  • Develop a budget and financial plan to cover college costs that minimize the need for loans.

  • Identify scholarships, grants, and other forms of financial aid for which they may be eligible.

  • Estimate their potential financial aid award packages to better understand what their out-of-pocket expenses might be.

State Scholarship and Grant Programs

State scholarship and grant programs – such as the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program – offer valuable financial aid to eligible students based on residency, academic achievement, financial need, or other criteria. State governments often fund these programs and provide significant support for college-bound students.

For example, Florida students can take advantage of the Bright Futures Scholarship, which is funded primarily by the Florida Lottery. This merit-based program awards scholarships to Florida high school graduates who meet particular academic and community service requirements. By applying for and securing the Bright Futures Scholarship, students can offset a portion or all of their college expenses, leaving them debt-free after earning their degree.

The Florida Lottery is doing its part in raising awareness across Florida of the availability of the Bright Futures Scholarship Program by partnering with education-minded organizations like The Scholarship Plug, Inc.

For students outside of Florida, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administration (NASFAA) provides a comprehensive list of state financial aid programs. By researching and applying for state-specific scholarships and grants, students can access additional financial resources to help cover college costs.

Act Today

Ready to take the next step? Explore the Bright Futures Scholarship program for Florida students [here], federal student assistance [here], and students outside of Florida can browse state financial aid programs nationwide [here].

It’s essential for students and families to act early and make financial aid planning a top priority. By learning more about what is available and applying for scholarships and grants, especially in-state programs, families can make higher education more accessible and affordable.

Don’t let college costs hold you back. Start planning for your future today!

Are you a Bright Futures recipient, past or present? The Florida Lottery invites you to share your story! 

Click here to download the Bright Futures Testimonial Form. Along with your completed story, please include a photo of yourself and a signed release form to

The Florida Lottery would love to hear from you!

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