Besnette Hauser: Debunking the myths of paying for college

Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser
Valley Voices

As the academic year comes to a close, an estimated 63% of graduating high school students nationally are focused on going to college. Others haven’t yet made plans for next year. Some have been out of school for a long time. Whatever your status or thinking about college — can and should it still be in your current or future plans? 

The simple answer is: Yes!

It’s never too late to start, or finish, college. And it doesn’t have to cost an arm and leg to get an education.

If you think you can only begin at age 18, or earn a degree by 22, it’s time to let those myths go. And while we’re at it, let’s debunk a few other myths.

College is too expensive 

Yes, college can be expensive. However, if you are a smart shopper, there are ample ways to make college affordable, without incurring large amounts of debt. This is so that you are qualified for jobs and careers — the vast majority of them in our current society and economy — that require a college credential or degree. You can shop for colleges that have lower tuition rates, like CMC. You can earn specialized certificates, which can stand alone and qualify you for a better-paying job now or can “stack” together with a more traditional degree program. And financial aid is more available than you might realize. 

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If I get financial aid, I’ll be stuck with huge loans

Let’s look at a real CMC student, Jesse Moreno, who is completing an Associate of Applied Science degree in paralegal. By talking with a financial aid counselor, he learned that by completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), he qualified for free grants that covered all his expenses — without having to take out any loans.

I can pay the tuition, but I need to work full-time to cover my books, rent and living costs 

Moreno’s free grants not only paid for tuition but also for books and living expenses, allowing him to take more classes so that he can finish school more quickly. For example, you can use grants to cover child care, a computer, and other costs to attend college.

Applying for financial aid is hard, and the FAFSA is expensive

If you have completed your 2022 taxes, you’ve already done the hardest part of the FAFSA. Moreno found that an hour’s worth of completing the application more than paid for itself, giving him much more aid than he’d expected. And keep in mind that the first word in FAFSA is “free.” If anyone tries to charge you money for helping you complete the form, it is very likely a scam. The counselors at CMC offer free help, too.

I’m too old and won’t qualify for financial aid

Moreno had been out of school for 20 years and learned that financial aid options are available for older students, too. This includes options like the new CMC Promise program, which is especially for people who are caught in the middle between qualifying for Pell Grants and being able to pay all costs of attending, including those who are independent adults. With the Colorado Mountain Promise, we will cover tuition for any Colorado resident whose family income is below $70,000. If you’re an independent student (typically over 24 years of age) we’ll cover your tuition if your household income is $50,000 or less.

College can be affordable, for traditional-aged and older students alike, often with federal and state grants, need-based or merit-based scholarships offered by your college and other organizations, and work-study jobs. 

But don’t take my word for it. 

Go to to see three different student scenarios about affording a college education. Go to to find out more about all the available options or to talk to a financial aid counselor at CMC. 

If you or your family are considering college, the time to take the next step is now. June 30 is the deadline to complete the FAFSA for attending college this fall. Like Jesse Moreno, it just might change your life.

Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser is the president and CEO of Colorado Mountain College. She can be reached at or @CarrieBHauser.

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