Since college is now costing an average of around $25,000 per year, it’s important for families to consider alternative and creative ways to pay for a college or university education. And, although loans are an option, it’s best if loans can be the last option so that students don’t graduate owing a fortune.
Scholarships can involve tough competition, particularly when they are related to academics. Students who need scholarships but are not necessarily excellent at writing skills should consider applying for no essay scholarships. These are monies to be used for college, which do not need to be paid back. Many companies in the United States want to give away free scholarship money and they don’t require academics or essays to qualify. For many of these scholarships, you simply sign up online by giving some information about yourself and then you will be notified if you’ve won. Each scholarship has different requirements so it is important to pay attention to the details and deadlines when you apply.
Another way to work your way through college, or after college, is to sign up for a cause which will assist you in getting through college, such as Americorps or ROTC. The Americorps program allows the student to take time off from classes for a year in order to earn money to pay for tuition. The student receives a small stipend for living expenses while working as a “volunteer” for service organizations such as YWCA or Habitat for Humanity.
The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) of the US Army offers 4-year full-ride scholarship options as well as the option for students to contract out to the army as cadets in exchange for several years of service following graduation. However, using this as an option to pay for college requires a great deal of commitment and should not be taken lightly!
Living at home, whether attending a local community college or the Big Ten in your town, consider living with parents or grandparents. The cost of dorms, dining halls, coin laundry, and general on campus living can add up fast. Instead, consider saving thousands of dollars by living at home for a semester or a year in order to cut down on costs and limit the amount of loans necessary.
Particularly for core classes taken in the first couple of years of college, having a job which will reimburse you for some of your tuition is ideal. Many major national companies provide college credit rim reimbursement. For instance, FedEx, the shipping company, offers $3000 per year for each of their employees whether full time or part time. UPS, Deloitte & Touche, Chase, and Apple, all offer such programs. However, it’s, important to study hard because there are typically grade restrictions which limit the amount which will be reimbursed if your grades fall below a “B”. And all of this usually falls under tax-free status.
Advanced Placement or Dual Credit classes taken during high school can significantly cut down on the bills college students have to pay. Core classes can be taken or tested out of I order to begin college classes somewhere beyond the 101 level. Some of these programs are even developed so that a student could potentially graduate from high school with an Associate’s degree in hand. This would move the student forward by a couple of years toward a bachelor’s degree and significantly decrease the cost of the more traditional college experience.
Whether you are a parent thinking ahead for children who will attend college several years from now, or if you are a student who is halfway through the college experience, it is important not to limit your options on how to pay for college. Of course, saving as much as you can ahead of time is ideal. But also be willing to think outside the typical college “box” and apply for as many grants, scholarships, and other forms of aid you find available. Open your options and you will likely open up your opportunities to attend college without the maximum amount of loans upon graduation.