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

1. 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.

2. 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 maybe 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.

3. 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.


Most colleges offer payment plans that allow you to pay your college bill over time. For more insights about financial planning for college, check out “Affording College” under the “Articles” tab.

Yvette Haring, 529 College Savings Program Director

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ScholarShare 529, California’s college savings plan, publishes the College Countdown website and articles to provide resources and to ease the minds of parents preparing to send their kids to college. Visit ScholarShare 529.