How Do I Pay for College?

January 15, 2021

Students of all backgrounds can afford college. More than half of all college students in Oregon receive some sort of financial aid, including:

  • Grants and scholarships – these do not have to be repaid.
  • Loans – these must be repaid with interest.
  • Work-study – students get paid for working while in school.
You can start today by researching your options, and planning your college path.

Getting Started
If you are getting ready to attend college or thinking about going back to college:
  • If you will be a first-year student in the fall, be sure to complete an application for admission to the college(s) you hope to attend and apply for financial aid. 
  • Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at The FAFSA is the required application for federal financial aid programs, the need-based Oregon Opportunity Grant, the Oregon Promise grant, and many scholarships. Complete your FAFSA as soon as possible after it opens on October 1, 2020, if you plan to attend college anytime between fall 2021 and summer 2022. DACA and undocumented students in Oregon can submit the Oregon Student Aid Application (ORSAA), which is the Oregon alternative to the FAFSA. Students who complete the ORSAA will be considered for state grants and some private scholarships. Be sure to submit a new FAFSA or ORSAA each year you plan to attend college. The sooner you submit your FAFSA or ORSAA each year, the better your chances of being selected for financial aid programs that have limited funds.
  • Apply for the Oregon Promise Grant if you are planning to graduate high school or receive a GED®   between July 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021.The Oregon Promise Grant helps cover tuition at an Oregon community college for recent graduates. Students must complete an Oregon Promise application, meet GPA and other eligibility requirements, and enroll at an Oregon community college within six months of graduating high school or receiving a GED® in Oregon. For most students who graduate between March and June, the application deadline is June 1. If you are a GED® student or are not graduating between March and June, check the website to determine your application deadline. The application opens in late September 2020. Details about requirements and deadlines are available at
  • Apply for scholarships for the 2021-22 academic year by filling out the online “OSAC scholarship application” administered by the Office of Student Access and Completion (OSAC), and explore the scholarships offered at Completing the online application lets you apply to more than 600 scholarship programs that pertain to academic and career choices; specific populations; employers and membership organizations; and the high school from which the student graduated. The deadline is March 1, 2021, and applications submitted by February 15 qualify for an early bird review and a chance to win a $1,000 scholarship.
  • Research which school and programs will best help you meet your goals by browsing campus websites, contacting admissions offices, or accessing the Oregon Career Information System at many schools, libraries, and all Oregon Employment Department offices. You can also use the U.S. Department of Education’s College Navigator website ( to search for colleges, build a list, and view side-by-side comparisons of costs and other features for up to four colleges at a time.  
  • Contact financial aid offices and research college costs at the schools you are thinking of attending. Financial aid offices will have information about campus-based awards and application deadlines. They will also require FAFSA data (see page 20). Average costs for Oregon students are listed here, but individual student budgets vary by school and program of study.
  • Attend a College Night in Oregon event October 2020 through April 2021 in various locations) to get help filling out your FAFSA and learn about available funding and scholarship tips. Go to for information.
  • If possible, attend a local “financial aid night” workshop or college fair.
  • Research application requirements and deadlines, and send in your completed applications to the colleges you are interested in.

For More Information 
Call OSAC at (800) 452-8807 or visit for links to help you understand the financial aid process as well as information on careers, colleges, and how to fill out scholarship applications. The OSAC website also includes information on these targeted grant programs:
  • Oregon National Guard State Tuition Assistance
  • Oregon Chafee Education and Training Grant
  • Oregon Student Child Care Grant
  • Deceased or Disabled Public Safety Officer Grant
Source: Oregon Office of Student Access and Completion, an office of the Higher Education Coordinating Commission

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