If you’re considering going to college for a degree, or finishing up one you’ve already started, the first question on your mind is: How can I pay for school?
College-related costs continue to climb dramatically, outpacing inflation rates. The College Board reports that the average annual cost of tuition and fees for a public four-year college is $8,655 for in-state students and $21,706 out-of-state. Private four-year colleges weigh in at a whopping $29,056 per year.
The result? Average student debt after graduation is an incredible $27,000, according to a recent FICO analysis.
Before taking out an expensive student loan, be sure you’ve exhausted all sources of Federal financial aid as well as scholarships and foundation grants. However, if you don’t qualify for these, take heart – there are lots of creative ways to finance college.
Take core courses at a community college. These institutions are generally much less expensive than four-year schools, plus you’ll be saving more by living at home. Get basic requirements out of the way and then transfer to a more elite, pricey college to finish. Verify in advance which credits will actually be accepted by your dream school.
Borrow money from a relative. Has Aunt Sarah always been interested in your future? Persuade her that you’d be a good investment via a personal loan, with a market-based interest rate. You’ll need to create a signed agreement to protect both parties. Have an accountant or lawyer look at it before signing on the dotted line.
Take advantage of your employer’s tuition plan. A 2010 study by Business and Legal Resources of Old Saybrook, CT reports that nearly 85% of U.S. companies offer employees tuition reimbursement. Most require that the degree be job-related. Some limit the amount of reimbursement available, and may require a minimum GPA for eligibility.
Find work at school. Get creative in hunting for employment opportunities:
- Apply for student assistant work, paid internships or tutoring.
- Look for cop-op programs that alternate between study and working semesters.
- Check out the school’s career services department, online jobs board and local bulletin boards.
- Start your own small business that you can run in your spare time, like pet- or house-sitting, tutoring and web design.
Explore unique life experiences. The military and some community services agencies offer free tuition to those who join their ranks. Here are two examples:
- ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) – you may qualify for a full scholarship plus stipend. In exchange, you must serve four years on active duty or eight years in the National Guard or Reserves.
- AmeriCorps – this national network of more than 3,000 non-profits like the Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity offers scholarships for community service work. The work can be personally rewarding, and look great on that resume too.
Choose an online education – the ultimate in flexibility. Consider these very real advantages:
- You’ll continue to earn while taking courses.
- Online courses are available 24/7, helping with school/life balance. You choose your study time and fit it around work and family obligations.
- Save money by not commuting. Many courses also offer reading materials online instead of expensive textbooks.
- Online learning boasts a wide variety of degrees and majors.
- Expand your school choices exponentially. Love Penn State but live in Wyoming? Done!
You can get started in exploring online education by filling out and submitting our convenient sign-up form (link).
Getting a college education is investing in yourself. It’s the safest kind of investment you’ll ever make! Act now to open up a world of opportunities.