If you’ve looked at the cost of tuition lately, you might have come to the conclusion that a bachelor’s degree is out of reach, and that’s before you even consider the cost of textbooks, room and board. However, there are plenty of ways to get money for college even if you weren’t born with a silver spoon.
Fill Out the FAFSA
Each year, federal financial aid goes unclaimed because students assume they are not eligible. You should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid even if you are one of these students. Although the application may seem daunting, the skip technology used by the online version makes it a fairly quick process compared to filling out a paper application. The FAFSA will tell you whether you are eligible for any grants, which you don’t have to pay back, as well as loans, scholarships and possibly other programs. The FAFSA also allows you to indicate whether you are interested in a work-study program, which offers you part-time work.
Even when students qualify for federal aid, it is often not enough. This is where private loans come in, and while banks and credit unions are still a good source for help, online lenders have come into their own in the past several years. Lower overhead often means they can offer lower interest rates, and some have also experimented with more unconventional ways of assessing a student’s creditworthiness. For example, they may look at regular payments of utilities for applicants who do not have substantial credit records. Another option may be to get a cosigner for the loan. Many students are unaware that there are options beyond federal aid and private student loans, but there are plenty of other ways to get money for college.
Other Scholarships and Grants
There are some very obscure scholarships and grants available, some so obscure or with such restrictive criteria that you may be one of only a few applicants. Some are quirky, with an element of arts and craft or written creativity, while others may be aimed at specific demographics, such as single mothers. You can find these and more using websites and apps that offer filtering, allowing you to quickly eliminate any that you would not qualify for.
Other Ways to Pay
Some companies offer tuition reimbursement to their employees. In some cases, you must study something related to your job but not always. Some universities may offer free or reduced tuition to full-time staff. Depending on where you decide to go, there may also be programs in which an organization or the government pays your tuition in exchange for your working for them after college for a set number of years, often just two and usually fewer than five. If you are interested in military service, there are programs that offer tuition assistance. Finally, if you are a parent concerned about paying for your child’s college education, you might want to consider starting a 529 savings plan as well as looking into how retirement funds may sometimes be used toward educational expenses.