Preparing for college, both academically and financially, can begin as early as families might wish to do so. Starting when children are in middle school or junior high school is not at all too early. The resources below will assist in this planning process. Parents and students should know the kinds of courses needed to be accepted into a college, how to find the right school, the costs of attending college, and the financial assistance that might be available.
Comprehensive Portal Sites
Federal Student Aid (FSA), Student Portal Web Site: This site provides information on academic planning and preparation, choosing a school, types of financial aid, qualifications and steps to apply for financial aid, managing loans, and more.
USA.gov: The U.S. government's official Web portal to federal, state, and local government Web resources and services.
Finding a School
Diploma Mills and Accreditation: This site is will help consumers gain a better understanding of accreditation in the United States. It is important for every smart postsecondary education consumer to be aware of the differences between accredited and unaccredited institutions and the pitfalls of enrolling in a "diploma mill." The site is one tool available to consumers to help avoid diploma mills and provides resources for parents and students for evaluating and selecting postsecondary institutions.
Postsecondary Educational Institutions and Programs Accredited by Accrediting Agencies and State Approval Agencies Recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education: This database lists approximately 6,900 postsecondary educational institutions and programs, each of which is accredited by an accrediting agency or state approval agency recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education as a "reliable authority as to the quality of postsecondary education" within the meaning of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA).
Career Colleges and Technical Schools includes information for those thinking about postsecondary education or training for a specific career, trade, or profession.
Financing and Financial Information
Federal Student Aid: Most student assistance from the U.S. Department of Education is in the form of grants, loans, and work-study to help pay the cost of attending a postsecondary institution. The FSA Student Portal has information on the federal student aid programs.
College Cost and Other Information: College Navigator from the National Center for Education Statistics helps you find colleges based on location, programs, tuition, distance learning, evening courses, and more. Save your favorites and compare up to four colleges.
Tax Benefits for Higher Education: There are a number of tax provisions that assist students and parents in financing postsecondary education. The Internal Revenue Service has a site explaining tax credits for education. Two additional IRS Web pages to visit include IRS Publication 970 and their Web page for students.
Financial Aid Shopping Sheet [PDF]: To promote transparency in student financial disclosures, the Department of Education partnered with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to develop the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet designed to help students better understand the amount of grants, loans, and scholarships they would receive for college. Secretary Duncan published an open letter to college and university presidents, asking them to voluntarily adopt the Shopping Sheet as part of their financial aid awards starting in the 2013-14 school year. Institutions of higher education interested in adopting the Shopping Sheet may contact the Department of Education at ShoppingSheet@ed.gov for additional information.
Saving for College - The College Savings Plan Network: The College Savings Plans Network was formed as an affiliate to the National Association of State Treasurers. Intended to make higher education more attainable, the Network serves as a clearinghouse for information among existing college savings programs.
Mapping Your Future: a public-service Web site providing career, college, financial aid, and financial literacy information and services.
U.S. Department of Education
Office of Postsecondary Education
1990 K Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20006