20 creative ways to pay for college
Going to college is an exciting and enriching experience that will set you on a path toward a fulfilling career and life. However, the high cost of tuition and related expenses can be daunting, leading many to feel like a college education is out of reach. Don't despair – there are creative financial solutions to help you afford your degree.
In this post, we will share 20 creative ways to pay for college, ranging from traditional scholarships and grants to outside-the-box options like crowdfunding and work-study programs.
Connect with the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid at Central Michigan University to learn more about paying for college.Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid
1. Apply for Federal Student Aid
There is no form that will be more important to your college career than the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA is an online application that helps determine your eligibility for federal financial aid like grants, work-study, and student loans.
2. Apply for scholarships
It may sound obvious, but scholarships can be a great way to help pay for college. You don’t have to pay them back, which is a huge plus for your bottom line. Many scholarships only require a simple application (or are included with your college application). Some require a simple essay or letters of recommendation. Some estimates say more than $100 million in college scholarship money is unclaimed each year.
3. Apply for grants
Federal and state governments – as well as many private organizations – offer grants to students who qualify. These grants can be a great source of financial aid. The best way to get grants is to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). You don’t have to pay grants back either – it’s a great way to help you pay for college.
4. Look for part-time work
Many colleges offer part-time jobs on campus that can help cover some of the expense of tuition and living expenses. You could work on campus as a resident assistant or in the school library. You can also work in staff offices. There are many different types of jobs on campus, and they can also be a great way of building your social network.
If you need additional financial support, you may consider using a crowdfunding website like GoFundMe to find donors who want to help you. GoFundMe hosted more than 100,000 college fundraisers last year with more than $70 million raised. Tell a compelling story about what you plan to do with your college education and the steps you’ve already taken to find yourself. Share frequent updates.
6. Participate in work-study programs
Work-study is another way to pay for college that comes from filling out your FAFSA. With work-study, the Federal government pays part of your wages instead of the college. You’ll get a job on campus (or off-campus through your school) and you’ll be paid hourly. Work-study is just another reason why filling out the FAFSA is so important in paying for college.
7. Military service
Joining the military can provide financial assistance for college education. Programs like the Montgomery GI Bill and Post 9/11 GI Bill can help pay for your education, as well as provide other benefits. The GI Bill is a will pay for all or almost all your college education, however, you will have to serve your time in military, so consider if this is something you are passionate about doing.
8. Attend a community college
Starting your education at a community college can significantly reduce the cost of tuition, while still providing core education credits. Most universities have articulation agreements with community colleges that makes it easy to transfer your credits in. Starting at a two-year institution also means you will gain an associate’s degree before receiving your bachelor’s.
9. Attend a state school
We’re a little biased but attending a state school can also be a more affordable option than attending a private college or university. In addition to having lower tuition and fees, a state school also can open a world of opportunity for you in the way of social clubs, academic research and networking.
10. Consider prepaid tuition plans
Prepaid tuition plans allow you to lock in current rates, paying for college tuition at the same rate in the future, regardless of inflation. The Michigan Education Trust in one example of a prepaid tuition plan. These plans can help fight rising costs and lock in today’s rates.
11. Take summer courses
Taking summer courses at a local community college can help you catch up on credits for less money than taking the same classes at a four-year university. Most colleges and universities have a core curriculum that all students must take. You can knock these out at a community college and kick your college career in hyperdrive.
12. Parent Plus loans
If your parents have a good credit rating, they may be able to take a Parent Plus loan to help fund your college education. Remember that loans must be paid back – consider the overall cost of attendance at the college or university you are considering. The maximum amount you borrow is the cost of attendance minus your other financial aid.
13. Private loans
Borrowing from private lenders can also be an option, but should be approached with caution, as it can incur long-term debt. The loans you receive from filling out the FAFSA generally have better terms and conditions for repayment.
14. Income-shared agreements
These agreements allow students to pay back a percentage of their income after graduation, which may be a more manageable option for some students. Income-shared agreements are a new idea when it comes to paying for college, and not all schools have adopted them yet.
15. Peer-to-peer lending
Peer-to-peer lending platforms provide loans directly to students by connecting them with investors. All you have to do is fill out a simple form that determines your need. You are then connected with investors who will pay your tuition. You then pay back the loan in monthly payments.
16. Employer tuition reimbursement
For working adults, this can be a good option, as some employers offer tuition reimbursement or assistance as part of their benefits package. Check with your employer to see if this is an option for you. You may be able to pay for all or some of your college for free thanks to your employer!
17. U.S. Savings Bonds
U.S. Savings Bonds can be a great way to save money for college as they offer tax benefits and are backed by the federal government. The interest earned on Series EE bonds can be used tax-free to pay for college.
18. Take advantage of tax credits
These tax credits help pay for college by reducing the amount of your income tax. The American Opportunity Tax Credit and Lifetime Learning Credit are tax breaks that can help offset college education expenses. The American Opportunity Tax Credit can offer you savings up to $2,500 and the Lifetime Learning Credit offers you up to $2,000.
19. Negotiate tuition
It may be possible to negotiate tuition with the college or university directly, especially if you have received acceptance to multiple schools. While you may not have much luck doing this, getting in touch with the financial aid office at the school you want to attend may help you find other ways to pay for college that you didn’t know about.
20. Live at home
Living and eating on campus can become expensive quickly. Living at home while going to college can help you reduce the cost of living expenses and focus on education. Some schools require first-year students to live on campus, so check with your college or university to see if this is an option for you.
Paying for college can be challenging, but it's important to explore all of the available options to help cover the cost. By using the tips above, you can create a budget that meets your needs, while still achieving your academic goals. Whether you're applying for scholarships, negotiating tuition, or taking advantage of tax credits, there are many creative ways to pay for college that can make your dream of receiving a higher education a reality.
Looking for ways to pay for college? Connect with Central Michigan today – we can help you make your college experience affordable.