So when the worst of times came during the pandemic, being able to afford a degree became dramatically harder.
Consumer Reports explains that recent changes could help make college more affordable.
When it comes to helping her son Russel pay for college, Ana Termyna does whatever it takes.
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This unprecedented time has also been a catalyst for significant changes that could make higher education more affordable and student debt easier to manage.
"Many private schools whose enrollment was hurt by the pandemic are aggressively discounting tuition and fees to attract new students and retain current ones," said Octavio Blanco with Consumer Reports.
A study shows that on average, undergraduates got a record 48% discount on tuition and fees in the form of scholarships, grants, and fellowships in the 2020-2021 school year from private schools.
Also, Congress has given colleges a $36 billion pot of money to distribute in emergency financial grants -- money you don't have to pay back.
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"This aid will help keep people in school who are struggling financially and prevent them from going deeper into debt. The exact criteria for eligibility will vary by school, so you should check with the financial aid office at your school to see how it works," said Blanco.
The pause on student loans was extended until the end of January.
Also, the American Rescue Plan signed into law in March included a provision that makes all student loan forgiveness tax-free through 2025.
As for Ana, she can't wait to see her son Russel accomplish his goal of becoming a physical therapist for athletes.
"That is my blessing for him, for him to reach that goal," she said.
The Department of Education also streamlined the process for people with a total or permanent disability to apply to have their loan discharged. Talk with your loan servicer if you think you fall into one of these categories to make sure the new rules are being applied in your case.