Sunday, March 31, 2013

College is costly: 7 innovative ideas for funding

For some, the hardest part about going to college is not deciding whether college is right for you, the admissions process, or the workload you have once you get there.  For many the hardest part about going to college is paying for it. Regardless of where you go to school, College costs a lot of money.

For students who choose to go to college, here are some ideas for great places to turn for funding.

1. Your Community
Your community undoubtedly has at least a few civic and booster groups that offer scholarships. These scholarships might only be for modest amounts but every little bit helps, right? Beyond this, there are private organizations and businesses that also have scholarships to give out. Spend some time calling around to local businesses and asking about opportunities for scholarships or school sponsorships.

CAVEAT: most local scholarships require that the recipient attend a local or in-state school. This is probably not the best option if you want to go to school out of state or abroad.

2. Third Party Scholarships
Tracking down third party scholarships is time consuming. These are scholarships that are offered by independent businesses, groups, foundations, etc. They don’t always publicize themselves well so you have to be willing to put in the “leg work” to track them down. Before you simply start calling every corporation you know of, spend some time searching through the scholarship databases like FastWeb.There are also sites that have scholarship contests. You can try this one here.

3. The Government                                                                      
Fill out the Free App for Student Aid (FAFSA). It’s annoying and the first time you do it. It is time consuming but it’s the quickest way to find out just how much you can get granted to you via Pell Grants, etc. It’s also how you start the student loan process. You don’t have to agree to your loans right now, but it’s good to know how much you will qualify for if you need them.

4. The School Itself
The school you want to attend has a financial aid department. Contact them and ask them for scholarship and grant applications. Some schools will offer promising students a full ride. Others will give grants that cover as much as 50% of tuition and housing.

5. Start college when you are high school age
Many states allow students to start college while you are high school age and the local school district will pick up the cost for at least a few courses. For example in New York City there is a program called College Now for youth that are in school or home educated and are of the age of 11th or 12th graders. The classes you take are paid for as part of public education and participants who pass their classes receive college credit.  Students like Rylie VanOrsdol skipped high school all together and went straight to college with the local school district footing a part of the bill for her college courses.

6. Credit by exam
Students like Alexandria Potter suggest considering credit by exam allows you to study at your own pace, using whatever resources you can find, for however long it takes you - you take an exam at one of many testing centers and you get college credit. There are so many classes available this way. It cuts the time, the cost and allows you so much flexibility. It allows you to actually take the time to learn in a way that suites you. And once you are comfortable that you know your stuff, you take the exam.

7. Tuition Reimbursement
It’s worth noting that there are a lot of companies out there that offer tuition assistance programs for employees or their children. Sometimes these programs are only available to current employees so consider getting a job there and going to school part time. If you are more interested in going to school full time, there are some businesses out there that will agree to pay for a student’s tuition if that student agrees to work for the company for a few years after he or she graduates. This helps you pay for school and lines up your first post-collegiate job all at the same time (which will save you a lot of stress and hassle as you get closer to graduating).

These are some sources of college funding (outside of your own bank account).  The work involved in paying for school is huge, but taking the time to get part of the bill covered, will pay off in the long run.