Ways to Pay for College

Need money for college? Here are some things to consider.

Experts agree that not all college funding sources benefit students equally because some sources, like scholarships and grants, are "free" — while others, like loans, may charge an interest rate and fees.

The rule of thumb is that you should seek college funds in the following order:

  1. Search for "free" money that you don't have to pay back — this includes scholarships and grants.
  2. Use college savings, if you have it.
  3. Look into federal student loans, which often have low rates and flexible repayment options.
  4. If you have exhausted other funding options, consider a private student loan to fill the gap.

The money for college is out there, you just have to know how to look for it. Learn about the most common ways to finance your education:


Do you excel in academics, athletics or the arts? Do you belong to any special interest or cultural groups? Can you write a compelling essay? You might have what it takes to get a scholarship for college.

Learn how to find scholarships >


It’s never too early to start saving for college. Some parents and grandparents begin when a child is born by putting money into tax-advantaged products like 529 plans or a Coverdell Educational Savings Account (ESA). Remember, any money you save now is money you don’t have to borrow down the road.

Explore ways to save for college >

Federal Financial Aid and Loans

When people think of financial assistance for college, what usually comes to mind is Federal financial aid, which consists of grants, loans and work-study programs. To receive federal funds for college, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which comes out during the fall of the year.

Learn about the types of federal financial aid >

Federal vs. Private Student Loans

In addition to federal student loans, some students may wish to take out private student loans, which are issued by a bank, like SunTrust, instead of the government.

See a comparison of federal and private student loans or compare SunTrust student loan options >

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Important Information 

Before applying for a private student loan, SunTrust recommends comparing all financial aid alternatives including grants, scholarships, and both federal and private student loans. View and compare the available features of SunTrust private student loans.

Union Federal is a federally registered trademark of Cognition Financial Corporation used by SunTrust Bank under license. The Union Federal Private Student Loan is funded by SunTrust Bank and is not offered in connection with any other lender or the federal government. Cognition Financial Corporation is not an affiliate of SunTrust Bank.

Certain restrictions and limitations may apply. SunTrust Bank reserves the right to change or discontinue these programs without notice. These loan programs are subject to approval under the SunTrust credit policy and other criteria and may not be available in certain jurisdictions.

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