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Paying For College

Paying for college, whether it is a four year university, a two year community college, or a career based institution requires planning. 
Step 1 - Apply For Scholarships and Private Grants:  Scholarships are great ways to pay for college because they don’t require the money to be paid back, You do have to qualify for scholarships, but there are many websites that help students find scholarships that fit their specific qualifications. The Scholarship and Grant page has information about national, state and local scholarships you may be eligible to receive 
Step 2 -  Apply for State Grants:  While scholarships are usually merit-based, grants are typically awarded based on your financial need. If your family income isn’t especially high, you may be eligible for CalGrants.  To qualify, you must apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or California Dream Act Application (CADAA)
Step 3 - Test out of some of your classes: Students can reduce the number of classes they take in college with Advanced Placement (AP) test scores. 
Step 4 - Start at a Community College:  If your ultimate goal is a four year degree, you can complete your first two years at a Community College. In California, full time students will pay no tutition to attend a community college for two years. Those students will still have to pay for textbooks and miscellaneous fees, but they will save money that can be used at the transfer university of their choice. 

Step 5 - Federal Student Aid:
It may be difficult to cover all of your college expenses with savings and scholarships, even if you choose a low-cost school. This is where federal student aid comes in.  You can apply for work-study, federal grants and federal loans by applying to the FAFSA
Standard Educational Expenses

The cost of attending college covered by some combination of financial aid and students and their families includes a number of elements. Colleges and universities estimate the cost of attending their institution for three different living situations.


The fees displayed in the information below at the California Community Colleges, California State University, and the University of California are for California residents only. In general, dependent students whose parents have been in California or independent students who have been in California more than one year are considered state residents. If you are considering attending an out of state school, keep in mind that you will be paying any out of state tuition and fees.


For the CSU/UC information, they include the average costs for textbooks, paper supplies, and computer supplies (not the purchase of a computer) related to full-year, full-time enrollment. For on-campus living arrangements, this includes the cost of the dorm or apartment and any meal plan the student might have. It may also include estimates of groceries and eating out for students with small meal plans.


Off-campus estimates include rent, groceries, and utilities. Commuter estimates include transportation, as well as groceries and utilities. Miscellaneous costs include estimates for personal expenses, entertainment, transportation, and, at some colleges, an allowance for health insurance.

UC System
Estimated average costs for California residents 2019-2020 
This chart estimates the cost of attending UC for one year as a California resident undergraduate. For a significant proportion of
UC students, these expenses are offset by grants and scholarships.
Keep in mind that your total cost will vary depending on your personal expenses and the campus you attend
on campus
off campus
Tuition and fees*
Books and supplies
Health insurance allowance/fee
Room and board
*California resident undergraduates at all UC campuses pay the same 12,570 in systemwide tuition and fees. The fee figure above includes the average cost of additional campus-based fees. Your costs will vary depending on your personal expenses and the campus you will attend. 
CSU system
All students enrolled at a CSU campus pay the same systemwide tuition fee, which is currently $5,742 per academic year for undergraduate students enrolling in more than six units per term and $3,330 for undergraduates enrolling in six or fewer units. Every CSU campus also has mandatory fees that all students must pay; these vary by campus.  Here is an example of costs for a student attending CSU Chico. 
CSU Chico    Living With Parents Living On- Campus Living Off-Campus
Fees $7,356 $7,356 $7,356
Books and Supplies $1,918 $1,918 $1,918
Food and Housing $5,418 $12,550 $12,390
Transportation $1,068 $1,068 $1,068
Misc. Personal $1,480 $1,480 $1,480
Total $17,240 $24,372 $24,212


California Community Colleges

California residents currently pay $46 per unit for community college courses. A California resident who enrolls in 12 units is considered a full-time student; that student would pay $46 x 12 units, or $552 per semester. Recently the California legislature passed a new policy making community college tuition free for the first year and possibly in the future,  for free for the second year. Keep in mind that the policy only applies to course fees.  Other college costs include books, supplies, transportation, food and housing. Some colleges also charge for class materials and add fees for things like health services, parking and student government. Although California’s community colleges are the least expensive all-around colleges in the nation, the costs can add up.