College is expensive, and tuition is only part of the cost. Parents and students often discover that textbooks, living expenses and unexpected bills quickly add up to much more than they planned. Students turn to student loans to pay for their education and end up entering their professional careers feeling buried in debt. In 2017, students in the United States owed more than $1.48 trillion, and that number keeps increasing. Instead of taking on debt, explore these options to secure funding for your education.
Apply for Funding
Start planning for college while you’re in high school so you have time to research available funding options. The best financial aid involves money you don’t have to pay back.
- Grants – Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to find funding for which you may be eligible. Some grants are based on need, while others are available for students following specific career paths. Year after year research reveals money goes unclaimed, so make sure you’re exhausting every potential resource.
- Scholarships – It isn’t only the class valedictorian and the star football player who receive scholarships. Apply based on your strengths, volunteer involvement, and interests during high school to receive funding from a range of organizations. Once you’ve decided what school you’d like to attend, visit the career center, a financial aid advisor, and offices associated with your major to find additional sources of funding.
- Funding for veterans – If you or a family member is a veteran, you may be able to receive tuition assistance or attend college through the GI Bill.
Your parents might not be the only ones willing to contribute to your education. Crowdfunding through sites like GoFundMe and YouCaring allow friends and family members to donate as little or as much as they would like. These donations are generally not taxable.
It’s tough working and going to school, but college students often recognize it can be easier to pay education costs now, while their expenses are relatively low, than it will be later when they’re trying to buy a home and raise a family. Look for work with flexible hours that provides a positive atmosphere so it doesn’t drain mental energy you need for studying.
Many students are able to work around their school schedules by driving for Uber or working remotely for online publications. Work-study programs or tutoring allow you to earn money on campus when you’re not in class.
Some employers offer tuition reimbursement or help pay back existing student loans. Starbucks, AT&T and Bank of America offer money to cover educational expenses on qualifying coursework. In many cases, students can find work in a field they’re interested in for on-the-job training that helps them get hired quickly once they finish their degree.
Lower Overall Cost
When your overall education costs less, you don’t have as much to cover from outside sources. In-state colleges usually cost less for residents. Students can often take College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests to receive credit for subject areas in which they’re strong without having to attend the actual class.
If you’re struggling to find the funds for college, make student loans your last option. Be sure you’ve looked into every available resource and you may be able to pay for school without graduating with debt.