Ways to Pay for College When Scholarships Aren't Enough

By Brittany Loeffler on March 23, 2018

Earning a college education is extremely important in today’s workforce. Having a degree can increase your salary by $17,500 per year compared to an employee without one. It’s an important and hefty investment to make in yourself. Sometimes finding ways to pay for college is overwhelming and difficult, especially when scholarships just aren’t enough.

There are only so many scholarships out there and sometimes they won’t cover the entirety of your tuition. Don’t worry, there are plenty of other ways to pay for college. Some are easy and some require a little extra work on your part.

pay for college, leaping woman, rise of college tuition

via Pixabay

The Rise of College Tuition

You’ve probably heard stories from your parents about how they worked as line cooks or waitresses to pay for their college tuition. They tend to brag that they didn’t have to ask their parents for money. That’s great and all for their generation, but the rise of college tuition over the years is undeniable.

CollegeBoard researched the rise of the average cost of tuition from 1988 to 2018. Adjusted to the 2017 dollar, the average cost of a private non-profit college in 1988 was $15,160 per year. In 2018, this cost jumped to $34,740 per year. That is a 129% increase!

So, your worrying about how you are going to pay for college is completely justified. It’s a good thing there are plenty of ways to pay for college.

The Problem with Scholarships

Scholarships are a gift from the education gods! It’s free money for just being you. Whether it’s a scholarship for an essay you wrote, a sport you play, or even just for being left-handed, it’s undeniable that scholarships make it easier to pay for college.

Unfortunately, there are only so many scholarships out there. Hundreds or even thousands of students may all be applying for the same scholarship, but only one or two will walk away with the money. Don’t blame yourself if you aren’t awarded enough money through scholarships to fully pay for college tuition. It isn’t your fault that there are so many students out there in search of money.

ways to pay for college, pay for college

Infographic by Brittany Loeffler

There Are Other Options

From the time you are born to your first year of college, there are other options to pay for college than scholarships. It’s up to you and your parents to work together and come up with ways to make these payments. Depending on the cost of tuition, you may be lucky enough to walk away without owing any money if your grants and savings cover it. If you do need to take out loans, federal loans offer students protections and perks that some private loans do not.

We’ve listed some of the best ways to pay for college when your scholarship just doesn’t cut it.

Dip Into Your Savings

Hopefully, you have been putting money away for birthdays, holidays, and your high school job. It’s a good habit to get into and will take you pretty far in life. Whenever you receive a paycheck, put a portion of it into your savings account.

If you and your parents have started putting money away into savings to pay for college, now is the time to dip into it. This money is great to use on university fees, deposits, and room and board.

529 Education Savings Plan

The 529 Plan is an education-based savings plan and offers a way to skip out on paying capital gains taxes. The best part about this plan is that the money can only be used for college-related expenses such as tuition, room and board, meal plans, and textbooks. This is a great investment account for parents to take advantage of when they have a child.

Though it’s best to start this savings plan when you are young, starting one in high school isn’t too late! The more money the better.

Apply for Grants

Grants are free money given to you by the federal and state government. These grants are need-based and take your family’s income into consideration when determining the amount awarded to you. Some grants are also given out based on academic performance as well.

The first step to applying and receiving grants is filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year. It’s important to fill out this application as soon as possible (it becomes available October 1st) so you can be awarded grants with limited funding.

By filing FAFSA, you also become eligible for Pell Grants. The maximum award for a Pell grant is $5,920 per year for a student. Though it won’t completely pay for college, it does help!

Federal Loans

Many college students will take out federal loans to pay for college. Unlike scholarships and grants, you are expected to pay these loans back after you graduate. Luckily, student loans have some pretty low-interest rates compared to other loans. Students do not need credit or a cosigner to receive a federal loan.

Federal loans offer students protection and work with them to make repaying the loan as easy as possible. There are loan-forgiveness programs available depending on which field of work you go in. There is also a six month grace period from when you graduate to when you have to start paying these loans back. If you’re thinking about taking out a loan to pay for college, it’s best to go with a federal loan.

Ask For More Money from the College

You’ve probably heard “it never hurts to ask” multiple times in your life. So, when your scholarships and grants aren’t enough to pay for college, don’t be afraid to ask the college for some more money.

To begin this process, file a formal appeal to the college. It’s important to follow up this appeal with a phone call. This gives you a chance to talk to someone personally and explain your situation. Talking to someone directly will humanize you and make them see you as a person and more than just a name on an accepted students list.

Work-Study Programs

Many colleges and universities offer work-study programs as a way for students to pay for college. This must be included in financial aid and your FAFSA. Typically, the work needs to be related to your major and work around your class schedule.

It can be difficult to find a position in a work-study program because funding is limited and there are usually more students applying than there are positions available. Since it does have to be included in your financial aid, some students may not even qualify for a work-study program. Don’t worry though, there are other ways to pay for college!

Look for an Outside Job

If you don’t qualify for a work-study program, then find a part-time job outside of campus. This actually gives you a little more freedom as to what you do for work to pay for college. For example, you can become a family assistant or a waiter at a high-end restaurant and make some killer tips. If you’re feeling entrepreneurial, start your own business or service and set your own rates.

Be careful about finding an outside job, though. You have to make sure that your managers know that your classes take priority and you cannot work over a certain amount of hours. It may be tempting to spend your paycheck with your friends on the weekends, so don’t forget to put money away into a separate savings account to pay for college.

money, pay for college, stack of money

via Pixabay

Tuition Reimbursement from Employers

There are some companies out there that are gracious enough to help their part-time employees pay for college. Do some research to find out which companies offer this benefit and apply for a part-time job there.

Starbucks is one of the major companies that offers tuition reimbursement. They will pay for half of the tuition cost for your freshman and sophomore year and full tuition you junior and senior year all while you work at Starbucks for at least 20 hours a week. What’s great about this program is that you do not have to stay with the company after you graduate. There is one restriction, though, students must attend Arizona State University.

UPS also has a program that will give part-time employees $5,250 per year to pay for college. These are just two of the many companies that offer tuition reimbursement, so make sure to do some research!

Consider Community College

There is a stigma around community college. Many people believe that it is for students who were unable to get into a four-year university. This simply isn’t true! Community college offers college credit classes for a fraction of the cost. In fact, on average, community college costs one-third of what it would be to attend a university full-time for one year.

Choosing to go to community college for the first two years of college is a great move especially for students who aren’t exactly sure what they would like to major in. If your grades weren’t impressive in high school, community college is a great way to redeem yourself and get into your dream school. You will save money on room and board since you’ll live at home, tuition, and meal plans.

Private Loans

If you have exhausted all possible options to pay for college, your last resort should be taking out private loans. Since federal loans only allow you to take out a certain amount each year, private loans have no limit. However, they do not offer the same protection and benefits that federal loans do. The interest rate may be higher than federal loans too.

As a student, you will most likely need a cosigner for private loans unless you have some pretty outstanding credit built up. Private loans also depend on your cosigner’s credit, so you may be paying more for it depending on their score.

This is another way to pay for college, but we can’t stress enough how important it is to leave this as a last resort.

Cut Down on Expenses

It’s time to start budgeting and cutting down on expenses. Now that you have received your scholarships, grants, secured any jobs and tuition reimbursement, and taken out loans, it’s time to figure out just how much you are going to be spending. When you pay for college, you pay for more than just the tuition and fees. You also pay for housing, food, books, and transportation. Here are some ways to cut down those costs to save money while attending college.

Live at home or off campus

Dorms are unreasonably expensive. Students pay on average $10,000 per year to live in a dorm. This cost can easily be cut in half if you decide to move into an apartment off-campus with roommates. Not only will you get more for your money, but save some as well. To completely cut the cost of housing, live at home and commute if you decide to go to a college close to home.

Buy Used Textbooks or Rent

Textbooks can be a doozy each semester, especially if you are in a science or math-focused major. Rather than buying your textbooks new, scour the web for used textbooks. If they are available to rent, this is usually the cheapest option.

Cook for Yourself

Eating out or buying a meal plan is entirely overpriced and unhealthy. Spend a few weeks cooking for yourself. You’ll be impressed at how quickly you’ll learn to cook what you like. Pack a lunch and some snacks during the day to avoid spending $10 on food every day.

It Isn’t Impossible to Pay for College Without Scholarships

So, we’ve established that college tuitions have raised increased dramatically over the last 30 years and that scholarships are difficult to get sometimes. Even when you are awarded scholarships, it usually doesn’t cover all of the expenses to pay for college. This leaves you to explore a few options to pay for college. You can take out federal or private loans, apply for grants, dip into your savings, look out for a 529 plan, enter a work-study program, attend community college the first two years, or get a job with tuition reimbursement. This investment is hefty, but there are ways to pay for college.

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