Is higher education a luxury or necessity?
The U.S. Federal Reserve reports that the average college debt per person is $32,731 – a number that only continues to rise. The total college debt is over $1.7 trillion and has increased by $80 billion each year since 2004.
Because of this, many Americans have begun to see higher education as a luxury that only a few can afford.
Moreover, young adults are beginning to prefer working full-time jobs instead of attending college. Unfortunately, that strategy has left several people grappling for financial stability.
According to Peer Forward, over two-thirds of jobs in the U.S. require post-secondary education credentials. Therefore, getting a degree will open up more employment possibilities.
Fortunately, if you want to continue your education, you don’t have to limit yourself due to financial constraints. There are several ways you can get paid to go to college.
Here are nine ways to go to college that won’t break the bank.
1. Corporate Tuition Reimbursements
Sometimes people will pick up a second job, or work longer hours, to pay through school. Wouldn’t it be great if your employer could pay your tuition without you needing to work longer hours?
It turns out they can. Just like there are companies that buy ideas, there are specific employers that can reimburse you for your tuition payments.
Many organizations benefit from their employees gaining new skills and knowledge. It works to their advantage by making sure they don’t lose their competitive edge. It’s also been reported that it’s 150% more expensive for businesses to hire new talent than it is for them to retain existing talent, which leads them to offer incentives like tuition reimbursement.
Some of the companies that offer tuition reimbursement are AT&T, Bank of America, Adobe, and Proctor & Gamble. Each organization offers different benefits, with its own eligibility conditions, of course. For example, some may require you to study for a specific degree or go to a certain university.
The amount you’ll receive will also vary depending on the company.
What’s important to note is that some employers won’t actively advertise this incentive, so it would be in your best interest to find out.
2. Career-Specific Tuition Benefits
Good news! You can get a scholarship to study just about any subject, from art to accounting. Colleges receive donations for specific departments from their alumni or companies that have a stake in particular fields, so these major-specific scholarships are in plenty.
Popular fields include healthcare and education. Other factors such as your career goals, ethnicity, and gender may improve your chances of winning a major-specific scholarship.
3. No-Loan Colleges
In 2001, Princeton was the first to come out with the concept of no-loan colleges. Since then, a host of other higher learning institutions have followed.
Never heard of it? Simply put, no-loan colleges guarantee their students free education. They supplement your college fees with scholarships and grants, which means you won’t need to take out any loans.
Being accepted into a no-loan program is competitive, especially since most of them are in prestigious colleges. However, if you do get accepted, not only will you be enrolled in a reputable college – you’ll be attending for free.
4. Financial Aid
There are three types of federal financial aid: loans, grants, and work-study.
Here’s a breakdown:
Federal loans are awarded through the US Department of Education’s Direct Loan Program, and through it, undergraduates can borrow up to $31,000, either subsidized or unsubsidized. If you’re an independent student undertaking your undergraduate degree, you can even get up to $57,000.
Although you can apply for loans from private lenders, it’s advisable to max out your federal loan first. After all, federal loans have a fixed interest rate (which is ultimately better for you), and you may be able to qualify for loan repayment or loan forgiveness programs. You’re not going to get this from a private lender.
However, the biggest disadvantage of taking out a loan is that it can take you decades to repay it.
Fortunately, federal grants don’t need to be repaid. The most well-known federal grant is the Pell Grant. It prioritizes students from low-income families. Eligibility for the Pell Grant depends on how much a student’s family is expected to contribute towards their education, as seen through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Once you start attending school, you can also apply for a work-study. Unlike loans and grants, work-studies allow students to pay their tuition by working part-time on campus.
5. Scholarships and Grants
The government isn’t the only institution that offers free college money. Look for scholarships and grants from different colleges and non-profit organizations.
While a scholarship and a grant are essentially the same thing – meaning that you won’t need to repay the money – there’s a slight distinction.
The difference? Scholarships are awarded based on exceptional academic or extracurricular performance, while grants can be given to a broader range of students. For example, there are particular grants set aside for minorities, women, and STEM majors regardless of their economic status.
Need-based grants, which are mostly given through government programs, prioritize students with greater levels of financial need.
If you’re not sure if you’re eligible, there’s a high chance your university has information on their website about how to apply and who qualifies.
6. Attend Online Colleges
Online colleges are often overlooked, but they come with a lot of perks. Most are taught by adjunct professors, which means lower costs for you. Besides giving you immense flexibility, online courses also come with their own set of financial aid.
In some cases, you can even take accredited courses completely for free. A number of reputable universities offer free online courses, as well as websites such as Coursera. In some instances, the only thing you’ll need to pay for is the certificate.
7. Enroll into Community College
You might have the perception that community colleges are meant for people who don’t have the option of going to a “real’’ college, but you’d be surprised by how many students choose to attend community college in order to save money.
Private colleges are two-thirds more expensive on average. The difference between enrolling in a community college and a four-year college is literally thousands of dollars.
In fact, you can save up to $85,000 just by attending a community college for the first two years of your education. So why not knock out the general courses in community college before transferring to another school?
8. Join the Military
Depending on your background, joining the military might not be on your list of things to do after high school. But even if you’re actively considering going to college, don’t rule out military service just yet. The US military is one of the biggest educational sponsors in the United States.
Under the GI Bill, which was first implemented after WWII, the military is obligated to help service members transition into civilian life. One of the ways they help is by giving out scholarships, loans, and grants.
There are different GI bills with different terms, so it’s worth checking out further.
If you’ve already finished school, don’t worry. The military offers a loan repayment assistance program that will help you pay back up to $120,000 and a loan forgiveness program that can even cancel your student debt altogether.
How Much Money Can I Get for Going to School?
The amount of money you can receive for going to school varies. It depends on the type of aid you apply for, the requirements for eligibility, and your level of financial need (among other factors).
Scholarships and grants can give you anywhere from $1,000 upwards. On the other hand, federal loans have a cap of $57,000.
To make college affordable for you, apply for multiple scholarships and grants and take full advantage of government programs like work studies.
Can I Really Get Paid to Go to School?
Yes, you absolutely can.
Even if you weren’t a straight-A student in high school, there are a plethora of opportunities waiting for you. So if you’re serious about pursuing a college degree, take the leap and go for it!
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