How To Pay for College

The Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) manages multiple college programs that help students understand their options for paying college tuition. These programs include financial aid, scholarships, grants, and loans. A quality education is essential for our next generation and having adequate resources is the first step to a bright future for students. By utilizing these programs, students can expect to have the guidance needed for a great start into college.

Before College

College is where it begins to plan your future and to achieve your dreams. You must work to make it happen, that includes financial planning, choosing programs, and utilizing online resources. Online tools are helpful to research colleges that are right for you, researching careers, and learning the process of admissions.

Financial Aid Planning

Financial aid has helped countless students complete their college degree and pursue their goals with quality education. Your eligibility for financial aid will be determined by you and your family’s financial situation, and by filing your application on time. The first step in the financial aid process is to complete an application. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can be found online at


Scholarship programs are considered a “gift aid” that rewards students for unique skills, special talents, grades, or athletics. Some scholarships have program requirements and most of them do not need paid back. Students should start looking at scholarship options once they choose which college to attend. For more information visit:

College Grants

Unlike financial aid, a grant is a type of “gift aid” that does not need to be paid back. Grants are typically awarded through the government or college the student attends. If a FAFSA application has been submitted, students automatically are considered for three types of grants:

  • State of Illinois Monetary Award Program (MAP) grant
  • Federal Pell Grant (Pell)
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG)

For more information about college grants:

College Loans

Taking out a loan lets students borrow money from the government, banks, or other lending institutions which must be paid back with interest. Students should know the borrowing basics and research their loan options. Remember to only borrow the money that’s needed. Here are three examples of loans:

  • Student Loans– Federal Subsidized and Unsubsidized
  • Parent Loans– Parents apply for the Direct PLUS Loan
  • Private Loans– Nonfederal loans made by a lender

For additional information about planning your future in college, visit the Illinois Student Assistance Commission:

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