If you’re worried about paying for school, there are several ways to reduce the cost. Let’s face it — college is expensive. Tuition and fees to get a degree can cost the same as buying a fancy car or putting down a deposit on a house. However, without a degree, you will find it challenging to get a high-paying job. If you’re a non-traditional student, going back to school can be a life-changing experience to further your career.
According to official data, the average annual cost for undergraduates to attend public college is $17,797. This figure includes tuition, fees, room, and board. For many students, going to college means taking out student loans. Some news reports indicate that the average student loan debt is over $30,000.
The big question is: how can you afford to pay for school and not get burdened with student loan debt?
Thankfully, there are innovative ways to pay for school. Working smarter, not harder, can result in getting free money for college, such as grants and scholarships. You can also start a 529 savings plan. Or you could even negotiate tuition and fee costs with the school.
This article points you in the right direction to find the best ways to make paying for school affordable.
7 Clever Ways to Pay for School
Every student attending school can find additional ways to pay for school. And it’s worth exploring every opportunity to get help to finance education. For example, Forbes reported that $2.6 billion are left on the table in unclaimed grants and scholarships. On average, students could get an extra $4,000 in financial assistance to pay for education by applying for funding.
Here are seven ways to get money to help cover college costs.
1. Get a grant to pay for school
First, apply for federal funding to help pay school tuition and fees. Grants can help you pay for college if you can’t afford it. There are college grants available based on financial need, gender, where you live, and religious affiliation.
The first step in getting a grant is to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Even if you don’t think you are eligible for a need-based grant, you should file the application. You may get money to pay for college in the form of the Pell Grant. There are also federal grants if you decide to go into teaching after you graduate.
Even if you’re going back to school as a non-traditional student, you may be surprised to find that you can get extra money to cover education costs.
Related Reading: A guide for single parents going back to school.
2. Scholarships can help to pay school tuition and fees
There are many opportunities to get scholarships to pay for school costs. Scholarship money is free, and you don’t have to pay it back. Scholarships can be based on merit, financial need, career goals, or other factors. You can find federal scholarships or scholarships that organizations and colleges offer.
The beauty of looking for scholarships is that you can accumulate a few to pay for education-related costs. In some cases, a scholarship can be worth thousands of dollars.
To increase your chances of winning a scholarship, apply for as many as you can. You should be able to cover part of school tuition and fees, if not all of them.
Related Reading: Insider secrets on how to win a scholarship.
3. Start a college 529 savings plan
If you plan to attend college in the future, it’s worth starting a 529 college savings plan. The savings plan allows you to save money tax-free to spend on school tuition. States operate college 529 plans, and you can search for the best options. This type of financing is an excellent option if you plan to attend college after a few years.
4. Find a work-study program to afford school tuition
One way to reduce school costs is to find a federal work-study program. Through a work-study program, you get part-time work to go towards school fees. To qualify, you need to complete the FAFSA to determine financial need. You then earn at least the minimum wage in part-time jobs.
Although the work-study program isn’t enough to cover all school costs, it can significantly reduce the need to take on student loans.
5. Choose a cheaper school
In some cases, paying for school is possible if you consider changing schools. For example, some students find that they can afford school by enrolling in a cheaper school for the first two years. Then they transfer to the college or university they wanted to attend in the first place.
For example, you could look at community colleges offering two-year courses. Tuition is cheaper than public colleges, and you may be able to graduate with an associate’s degree. You could then change to a four-year school. However, you must make sure that the credits you earn in community college count towards your further education.
If going to school still seems too expensive, you could learn a trade at a vocational school or get an apprenticeship.
Related Reading: Top vocational schools for high paying jobs.
6. Speak to your employer to help pay for school
One way to pay for school is to see if your employer can help cover some of the costs. Many employers are willing to help adult students who are planning to return to college. Employers know that employees who get a master’s degree or MBA are more valuable to the company.
Usually, if your employer helps pay for college, you have to commit to working there for a certain period of time. However, this is a great way to finance your education and ensure job security at the same time.
7. Lower your workload
If full-time education still seems too expensive, you could go part-time. You may still be eligible for federal grants and scholarships. So the lower tuition fees for studying part-time may make school affordable for you.
Ways to Pay for School: Key Takeaways
With the high cost of going back to school, it makes sense to find ways to finance your education. Getting grants and scholarships can help reduce the need to take on expensive student loans. You may also be able to get part-time work or help from your employer to make school costs affordable.