Affording an Independent College Education

The overall tuition, or “sticker price,” of a private college may typically higher than the overall tuition of a public college. But once all types of financial aid are factored in, the actual out-of-pocket expense for many families often calculates to a similar amount or sometimes even less, than the cost of a public college.

Our 13 member institutions are deeply committed to keeping higher education affordable, particularly for economically disadvantaged students. For instance, more financial aid may be available to students going to private schools: the amount a Tuition Assistance Grant (TAG) provides for a private school can be thousands of dollars more than for a public school.

The actual cost of going to school can be calculated by tuition price minus a combination of financial awards and work study, plus federal and private loans.

Students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to be eligible for federal student loans and for  state grants and other scholarships.

More information on applying for scholarships can be found here.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) offers a tool that can help calculate costs and compare college costs and financial aid options.

Awards: Scholarships and Grants

Scholarships and grants are both forms of financial aid that help to pay for tuition, room, board and textbooks, but they differ in several respects.

Grants are usually need-based and are available based on criteria such as family income and usually come from federal and state government resources. The Pell Grant is a well-known federal grant program. Tuition Assistance Grants (TAG) and Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) awards are provided by the state of New Jersey.

Scholarships are usually merit based, given to prospective recipients based on qualities such as athletic ability, academic achievement, commitment to a field of study or involvement in an extra-curricular activity. Many outside scholarships are available through community foundations, corporations, employers or other organizations. Resources for locating these include guidance counselors, community foundations and websites like FastWeb! and the College Board.

Grants and scholarships both usually have requirements that a student must meet to continue to receive funding, such as maintaining a certain GPA.

Information about ICUNJ-administered scholarships can be found here.

Work Study

Federal Work-Study Programs (FWSP) provide part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial needs, allowing them to earn money to help pay education expenses. The program encourages community service work and work related to the student’s course of study. Learn more here.

Work study opportunities are also available through individual institutions. Contact the school’s office of financial aid.

Student Loans


There are many types of student loans available. Students should explore all other options including applying for additional scholarships, cutting costs and getting a part-time job before taking out a private loan. Loans must be repaid. Repayment often follows a grace period after graduating or last date of attendance allowing time for students to secure employment. Federal student loans almost always cost less than private student loans and have more protections for when it’s time to repay.

More information about types of loans can be found at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.