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Paying for College in Installments

Person calculating costs

It can be challenging to pay for a whole college term in one lump sum. That's where installment plans come in.

Many colleges offer payment plans that allow you to pay your college bill over time. Here's how they work.

Deferred College Payment Plans are Like No-Interest Loans

Deferred payment plans, also known as installment plans, are a convenience to help you manage college expenses. Instead of paying your college bill for a semester or quarter at once, you pay in monthly installments. Your bill, which includes charges for tuition, and room and board if living on campus, must be paid off by the end of that academic period. Most plans do not charge interest if you pay by check or direct deposit. However, like private loans, you must have a good credit history to qualify for them.

Sign Up for Payment Deferment Well Before Classes Start

Don't show up on the first day of classes expecting to automatically qualify for an installment plan. You should discuss any payment plans as soon as possible with your college. The plan may be handled by a private company or by the college. In either case, you will usually pay a relatively small service fee. The first payment of an installment plan is normally due at registration and may be the largest. If you enroll at a college that does not offer such a plan, its financial aid office may be able to refer you to a private commercial tuition management company that does.

Beware of Extra Costs

Service fees for installment plans can run as high as nearly three percent. Some colleges charge an additional fee if you pay by credit card or pay late. To determine your college's policy, check with its bursar's office.

What's Next?

Use College Match to find out if a college offers a payment plan. See the "Money Matters" tab on the College Profile.

See Common Ways to Pay for College for more ways families cover college expenses.

Loans are a reality for most students. See Borrowing Options for College to learn more about different loan options.

Financial information contained on the CollegeData website is for general informational purposes only and may not apply to you or your situation. You should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of any financial content contained on the CollegeData website without consulting with a financial or tax advisor, or your parents, high school counselors, admissions representatives or other college counseling professionals. We disclaim all liability for actions you take or fail to take based on any content on the CollegeData website.