Getting a higher education doesn’t mean you have to get in over your head in student loans.
College can be expensive and, in reality, it turns a lot of people away from even trying. Fortunately, there are numerous ways to fund your education and reduce your out-of-pocket costs. Check out these ways to find funding for your college education to get the degree you desire.
Grant money meant only for education, and it generally doesn’t need to be repaid so long as you graduate. Education grants are each meant to provide support to different groups, so there are many that focus on gender, income, ethnicity, planned major (like the TEACH Grant), or specific needs. You must apply for the grant like a scholarship and once the money is gone, the grant ends.
Federal Student Loans
Federal student loans have affordable interest rates and many are eligible for repayment programs and/or forgiveness depending on the industry you work in. The Department of Education will base your student loan approval on your parent’s income, but the loan itself is always issued in the student's name.
Federal student loans are often much more affordable than private loans and give you the advantage of exceptional repayment programs, including deferred payments until you are settled. Most federal loans don’t even require you to start making payments for the first 6 – 12 months after graduation.
A few examples of repayment programs for federal student loans include:
Income-Based Repayment Plan
With an income-based repayment plan, your minimum payment is based on your current income. You must reapply for the program each year, and your payment will be adjusted as your income changes. If you are out of a job, it may be possible to get a $0 payment until you regain employment.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness
College graduates that work for the government or a government-recognized not-for-profit company may qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, which forgives your balance after 120 payments
Teacher Loan Forgiveness
Teachers that teach in low-income, high-need areas for five years may have their direct federal loans forgiven.
If you can’t get all the money you need from federal loans and/or scholarships, private loans may be a good option to supplement what you need. You obtain private education loans from individual banks, such as your local bank or an online bank. The qualifying requirements are tougher and they don’t offer the same repayment options, such as deferment or payment programs, so be careful when choosing this option.
Any student can be eligible for a scholarship – one just has to apply. There are thousands of opportunities out there from individual schools as well as outside organizations. The guidance office at your high school or the financial aid office at your college can point you in the right direction if you don’t know where to start. But, if you do a quick Google search for scholarships based on any characteristics, achievements, or affiliations you have, you may find many choices on your own. Online services such as ScholarshipOwl can make applying for lots of scholarships simpler. You must apply for each scholarship individually and there’s no limit to how many you can get.
Work Study Programs
Students that can’t get a loan or grant may be eligible for a school’s work study program. Each college runs the program differently, but in general, you work somewhere on the college campus in exchange for tuition hours. You won't receive actual pay, but you'll reduce your tuition bill in the process.
State and Institution Assistance
Your state or even the educational institution you attend may have funding assistance options available. Each state has opportunities for students in various forms including scholarships and grants. Check with your state or even the state your college is located in, if you’re attending an out-of-state college for opportunities.
For example, if you live in the state of New York, the New York State Tuition Assistance Program provides a grant of up to $5,165 per year to New York residents attending an approved college which does not have to be paid back. They have programs available for both full-time and part-time students.
Your chosen college may also have financial assistance and not just in the form of loans. They often have an incentive for students to attend in the form of financing, such as grants and scholarships. The assistance is often offered to students in specific majors, that play specific sports, or even students of specific ethnicities.
Always check with your school right away as these funds are typically on a first-come-first serve basis. Once the funds run out, the program ends. Once you know what other financial aid you’ll receive from the federal and state government, your next stop should be your college financial aid office.
Don’t let paying for college get in your way of getting a degree. Today there are numerous ways to finance it with both loans and ‘free money.’ You have to know where to apply and how to get it. Ask for help from your high school guidance office or college financial aid office if you don’t know where to start. With enough work, you can get your college education financed and earn the degree you desire.