With soaring tuition fee and student loans, the number of college graduates grappling hefty student loans has increased significantly. According to the US Department of Education, about 25% of borrowers are at least one month behind with respect to their student loan payments. In addition, the number of student defaulters has soared by over 500,000 just over the last year. This has increased the aggregate number of substandard student loans to nearly seven million.
What is even more troubling is that these numbers do not reflect borrowers who do keep up with student loan payments, but are struggling to pay rent and every day bills, purchase groceries, or save for their future.
So what is the solution or alternative to student loans? With some research and additional hard work, you can pay your college tuition fee without burying yourself in student loans. Although at times it might make your life a bit more hectic and complicated, for many students, it is usually a better option than getting stuck and overwhelmed with student debt for decades.
Here are a number of ways to fund your higher education without racking up student loans.
These are our top 6 means of securing college funding.
There are countless scholarship opportunities up for grabs depending on various qualifications or criteria. These include academics, community and cultural experiences, athletics, location, background, desired field of study and other accomplishments.
If you do some research and get a little creative, you are likely to find various scholarship options. These options are generally easily available and accessible to you. For instance, typical football scholarships are not only for gifted football players; rather numerous colleges provide them to support staff and other team members such as equipment managers.
Schools usually have enough resources for students that can help them find scholarships for which they may be eligible. Moreover, there are loads of resources on the internet that can guide you in this quest.
2. Choose an Appropriate College
Your college expenses can vary considerably depending on the college you choose. Selecting an institution that is financially better for your limited budget can result in massive savings in the long run. Therefore, it is vital to carry out some research before you commit yourself.
Figure out what type of financial assistance different colleges are offering. Numerous institutes offer need-based aid, while others provide free tuition depending on academic performance. Moreover, some institutions don’t charge any money.
In addition, public schools are usually much cheaper compared to private colleges. If you qualify for in-state tuition at a local or state college it can save you considerable amount of money.
3. Try Community College First
Many experts, like Clark Howard, are big fans of the concept of starting your higher education at a two-year community school and later transfer to a state or bigger four-year college where you intend to graduate from.
If you opt for a community college, you may have to make some compromises. For instance, you may not get the same sense of campus environment as you would in the case of a large public university. However, you would receive proper education in a student-oriented environment. After a couple of years, usually two, you may transfer to a more conventional college with just two years of higher college fee rather than four.
4. Work and Study
A number of students find employment through their universities. This is an ideal way of helping yourself financially through college life. There are several federal programs that offer job opportunities to both part-time and full-time students at thousands of colleges throughout the country.
In addition to financial help, these jobs can blend well with your field of study, providing you extra and valuable experience. When filling out FAFSA, ensure that you tick the box that indicates you have an interest in employment.
5. Employer Reimbursement Programs
I am enamored with Clark Howard’s story. It is a great example of how he secured employment with IBM and worked as a bill collection agent. He was well aware that the company would assist him in paying for his graduate degree. To stay eligible for the program, he was required to maintain a B average and pay for the college books; otherwise he would not qualify for the reimbursement. Therefore, he worked hard and IBM covered the expenses of his tuition fee for the master’s degree in business management.
Nowadays, there are a lot of different employers who are offering similar incentives. Some examples are Starbucks, Chipotle and Chrysler; all three have recently announced additions to or expansions of their existing tuition reimbursement initiatives.
For instance, Starbucks will reimburse up to 50% of your tuition fee for both freshman and sophomore years. To qualify for this program, Starbucks employees have to work at least 20 hours per week, which is manageable; and the best part is that there are no requirements regarding minimum length of service. And perhaps what is even better is that there are no shackles compelling you to stay with Starbucks after you get your graduate degree.
Related: Companies That Will Help Repay Your Student Loans
6. Apply for Grants
Financial grants are usually for students who are ambitious and are able to demonstrate a given amount of financial need. These grants are provided by both federal and state governments, as well as private colleges and universities.
Some of these grants go toward specific groups of students. For example, those who enroll in a particular field of study or have a unique trait, such as first-generation college students. To apply for state and federal grants, you will have to fill out the FAFSA. For other alternatives, you may need to carry out some research to figure out other relevant options that may be useful and available to you.