College and Higher Education

Find out where to get answers to common questions about colleges and universities.

Find a College That Meets Your Needs

Researching the schools you might attend after high school takes time. High school guidance counselors are a good resource for starting your search. Post high school education can include a local community college, state or private university, military college, art or culinary school, or trade or technical training school.

College or University

Some schools can be two year and are often called community colleges. Four year higher educational institutions can be public (state) or private universities.

Federal Student Aid - Use this chart listing items to consider when researching colleges, including your area of study, size of school, and tuition.

College Navigator -This tool helps you explore and compare features of different schools, including academic study programs, admissions guidelines, and campus crime statistics.

College Scorecard - Use this tool to  determine if a school is the right fit for you based on cost, student body, the value of your degree, and more.

Some schools may sound good but might not be accredited by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE). Check the Department of Education's database of accredited institutions.

Trade or Technical Schools

You may choose to earn a certificate, degree, or diploma from a career trade or technical school that will train you for a specific career, trade, or profession.

Military Colleges and Academies 

There are practical and financial benefits to pursuing an education through a military academy or college. Learn more about military education programs.

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Estimating the Cost and Paying for College

Learn About the Costs of College

College costs include a variety of fees and items, even some you might not expect. Estimating your expenses and creating and following a budget may help you control your college costs. If you are interested in a number of schools, learning which are most and least expensive may help you narrow your list of choices.

Different Ways to Pay for College

There are a variety of methods to help pay for your college education:

In addition to costs, learn about other important factors to consider such as location, accreditation, and more as you research colleges and career schools.

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Learn English

If you want to learn English or need to join an English as a Second Language (ESL) program for school or work, these resources can help you find local and online courses:

  • Schools or Nonprofit Organizations: If you live in the U.S., every state, county, and city has its own education programs and resources for learning English. If you have children, talk to their school staff,  or contact a community college, university, or nonprofit organization to find local programs.
  • Internet: Learn English from home with the website or download the application to your phone or tablet to practice on the go. Listen to for audio conversations to learn English.
  • Libraries: In some communities, libraries offer English classes and materials to study. Find a library near you.

If you are concerned that you might have been scammed or overcharged by an ESL program, contact the Federal Trade Commission to file a complaint.

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Education Programs for People with Disabilities

Learn how to find local, state, and federal education programs and financial aid opportunities for people with disabilities.

  • Your state department of education or your local school board are your best resources for telling you about nearby programs and answering questions about state educational rights laws for people with disabilities.

  • An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a plan developed by a child’s educators and parents to meet that child’s specific educational needs. It’s a foundational part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which guarantees a free, appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities.

  • College-bound students with intellectual disabilities may be eligible for financial aid programs including Pell Grants and Federal Work-Study programs. The Office for Federal Student Aid has specific information on loans, grants, and scholarships, and how to apply.

  • Contact the school you want to attend for additional information on special programs for people with disabilities.

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Education Rights of People with Disabilities

Educational Rights Laws

Several federal laws establish and protect the education rights of people with disabilities.

Disability Discrimination in Education

  • If you feel you or your child have been discriminated against at school, file a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

  • You can also complain closer to home. Most education policy is made at the state or local level. Your school district or state is often the best place to start if you have questions or concerns about a policy or issue or feel your child’s educational rights have been violated.

    • Select your state to find contact information for its department of education, higher education agency, special education agency, and adult education agency.

  • The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights offers an online pamphlet on the rights and responsibilities of students with a disability who are preparing for postsecondary education. It explains how schools must provide certain tools to students to avoid discrimination based on disability. Students must notify schools and document their needs. Schools must offer academic adjustments or modifications to help students participate in the classroom. For example, a school may offer course reading material in alternative text such as Braille.

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Filing Education-Related Complaints

Fraud, Waste or Abuse of Federal Educational Funds

The Department of Education's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) investigates fraud, waste, and abuse of federal educational funds, including federal student aid.

You may contact the OIG by:

  • Calling 1-800-MIS-USED (1-800-647-8733). Hours of Operation: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 9 AM to 11 AM ET, and Tuesday and Thursday 1 PM to 3 PM. ET, except federal holidays.
  • Downloading the Hotline Complaint form. After completing it, mail or fax it to:

       Inspector General's Hotline
       Office of Inspector General
       U.S. Department of Education
       400 Maryland Avenue, S.W.
       Washington, D.C. 20202-1500
       Fax: (202) 245-7047

Financial Aid Complaints

If you have done everything you can to resolve a student loan issue, use the contact form from the Federal Student Aid Ombudsman Group to help you resolve student loan complaints. They will work with you and the lender after you have tried other avenues to resolve your issue.

Special Education or Civil Rights Complaints

The Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights enforces several federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance from the Department of Education. Contact their office directly at 1-800-421-3481 or locate one of their enforcement offices

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Educational Benefits for Servicemembers, Veterans, and Their Families

GI Bill and Other Veterans Education Programs

If you were or are in the military, you may be eligible for veterans education benefits. If you’re a spouse or dependent, you may be eligible too.

Forever GI Bill

The Forever GI Bill of 2017 makes big changes to many veterans education benefits. Most changes expand or improve upon existing benefits. Highlights include:

  • Restoring education benefits to people who lost them because their school closed

  • Eliminating the 15-year time limit for those who left active duty on or after January 1, 2013

Many other changes are in effect or coming. See a detailed list of Forever GI Bill changes.

Military Tuition Assistance

If you're in the military now, your unit may pay for your tuition if you attend college in your off-duty time.

Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC)

Frequent military transfers can be a roadblock to getting your degree. But Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC) can help. These civilian colleges and universities:

  • Simplify credit transfers

  • Reduce the number of credits you must earn at their school to get a degree

  • Give classes on or near military installations in the U.S., overseas, and on military ships

  • Offer distance learning programs

  • Offer degrees that match your military job

  • Are open to servicemembers and their families

For more information, talk to your unit's education officer.

Military Spouse Tuition Assistance

If you’re a military spouse, you can find help paying for college or vocational training too. There are a variety of scholarships, grants, and interest-free loans. Find sources of military spouse tuition assistance.

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Last Updated: December 11, 2018