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Paying for College

Start Here. Start Early!

The first step in paying for college is understanding what you're paying for. 
Here's a comprehensive itemized list of college expenses

Here are some ways to gather enough money to pay for college: 
FAFSA and CSS
College Opportunity Fund (COF)




What is FAFSA?

The FAFSA form (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is used to determine your eligibility to receive need-based funds from the US Department of Education's Federal Student Aid Program. Colleges may make decisions on scholarships, grants, and loans from the FAFSA data as well.

The office of Federal Student Aid provides more than $120 billion in federal grants, loans, and work-study funds each year to students paying for college or career schools.

  • FAFSA ApplicationApply starting October 1 of your senior year of high school.
  • Funds can run out, so apply as soon as possible.
  • It's free to file, so watch out for scams.
  • FAFSA application deadlines vary by school, so be sure to check their deadlines.
  • FAFSA application may be required for merit based scholarships
  • It is recommended that everyone complete the FAFSA -- even if you don't think you'll be granted funds.

What is the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE?

The CSS Profile is a financial aid profile produced by the College Board (the SAT people). This online application collects financial information used by almost 400 colleges and universities to award financial aid from sources outside the federal government, such as institutional scholarships, grants, and loans. The College Board will send your application to the colleges and scholarship programs that you designate.

  • CSS ProfileApply starting October 1 of your senior year of high school.
  • Funds can run out, so apply as soon as possible.
  • Check with the schools you are interested in to see if they require the CSS PROFILE.
  • The CSS PROFILE is more of an all-encompassing snapshot of your family's finances than the FAFSA and requires income information for all parents.


What information do I need to fill out the FAFSA and/or CSS?

Both the FAFSA and the CSS are in-depth looks at your family finances. Be prepared with complete federal tax returns from the calendar year that your student finished the 10th grade and started the 11th grade (also known as the prior, prior year), records of untaxed income (such as child support or veteran’s benefits), all checking, savings, and investment account information, and information on assets such as homes, businesses, or farms.

COF - Colorado Opportunity Fund

College Opportunity FundAre you planning on attending a public or private college in the state of Colorado? The COF stipend is already reflected in the published Colorado resident tuition rates! Apply as early as 13 years old.


The COF (College Opportunity Fund) is a fund created by the Colorado Legislature to provide a way of distributing Colorado tax dollars to the colleges in Colorado, by creating a stipend for each resident undergraduate student who attends a participating college or university. There is no income qualification, and the students can be part-time or full-time. It is recommended that all students pre-register for this stipend, even before knowing if they will be attending a college in Colorado, and the instructions for registration are listed below. The stipend is paid on a per credit hour basis for up to 145 credit hours.


If you are a Colorado resident at least 13 years old, register for the Colorado College Opportunity Fund (COF).

IMPORTANT NOTE: The estimation of costs on websites for all colleges in Colorado INCLUDES the funding Colorado students receive through the COF. It's free to apply, and you must apply in order to receive the COF stipend, which is paid directly to the college or university. 


In 2018-2019, for residents who attend a participating college in Colorado this is:

  • $77 per credit hour at participating state universities and colleges.
  • $39 per credit hour at participating private universities and colleges.

For example, if a student takes 30 credit hours per year, that student will receive a stipend in the amount of $2,310 for the year. Students who attend a participating private university receive $1,170 in stipend funding ($39.00 per credit hour for the 2018-2019 school year).


Expected Family Contribution Calculator

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