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Creative Ways To Afford College

Creative Ways To Afford College

Creative Ways To Afford College

The cost of higher education is rising every year. Most people cope by saving what they can and struggling to obtain loans, a grant, and hopefully a scholarship or two. There are other possible approaches to financing your education if you are willing to forge a slightly different path. These alternatives aren't for everyone, and they often involve long-term planning and commitment from both students and family members. They depart from the standard “college experience” that people have in mind when they think of higher education. Still, if you're looking to avoid four years of stress and countless more years of student loan payments, you might find the right option here.

Community College for the First Two Years

Community colleges offer fewer degree options than a four-year college, but they also charge less per credit, and many universities accept transfer credit from a community college. You can take basic and introductory courses at a community college for two years, and then transfer to a four-year program at a university. This approach can save you half of what you would pay for the first two years of your university education. There's a large difference. Average community college tuition costs $3500 a year.[1] By contrast, an in-state public college will set you back an average of $8000 and a private college averages $27,000.[2] What's more, community colleges serve local communities. Since the school will be nearby, you can live at home and save on room and board. That can get you a four-year degree at almost half price!

You will need to take some precautions and plan ahead. You will need to know what you want to study before you make any decisions. Ensure that the community college courses you take are useful to the four-year degree that you intend to take. Make sure that your future university will accept the credits and coursework, and that the coursework will be acceptable as prerequisites for classes you want to take in the future. Check with your local community college advisor if you wish to pursue this approach.

GI Bill
Average community college tuition costs $3500 a year. By contrast, an in-state public college will set you back an average of $8000 and a private college averages $27,000.

The US Military helps honorably discharged veterans pay for higher education. Many high school graduates who have no job skills and cannot afford college choose to join the military for a tour, and then make use of the GI Bill to get a degree. This track isn't for everyone, though: It requires mature, highly motivated young adults who know what they want and are willing to work towards their goals. If you are such an adult, joining the military can be a way to afford a degree, see the world, and learn about your identity and your passions. It also gives you experience that's highly respected by many employers.


The Federal Government maintains a work-study program that will help those working in approved work-study jobs pay for their education. What's more, work-study options may be available through your university. If you can work 20 hours per week and still achieve high grades, this may be an option for you. Talk to your school's financial aid officer about the work-study programs open to you.

Service Career

Most students take out loans that can take 10 to 20 years to pay off fully.[3] Did you know that there are several programs available to help “forgive” these debts? Certain service careers, such as social work, medicine, and nursing, may offer debt forgiveness programs. You would commit to working two years in a remote or under-represented area, in exchange for debt forgiveness. Depending on your field and degree level, you may be able to write-off one quarter to half of your student debt by working at an approved posting for those two years. Though it would involve taking a temporary position at an uncomfortable posting rather than a plum job, it will help offset your education expenses. If you plan to pursue a health-related field and you feel the debt would be impossible to manage, this option may be for you. Talk to your college's financial aid officer about opportunities regarding service careers and debt forgiveness.

Work for a College

Many universities give significant tuition discounts to their employees or their employee's children as a work benefit. Although universities don't usually pay as well as government or corporate employers, this benefit could be significant if you have a large number of children who want to attend college. For example, if you had six children, working for a university and getting a college discount could make the daunting prospect of educating six kids more manageable. This obviously involves long-term planning, and you would already need to be working at a university a few years before your children would be ready to attend college. However, if you have many kids who will need education, this is one way to make it possible. The diversity of jobs on offer gives you plenty of opportunities to work on-campus. Universities hire for all sorts of jobs, from teachers and administrative workers to maintenance and plant operations technicians.

Move to a College Town and Live at Home

Like the suggestion above, this option also works better for larger families that have many college-age children. At an in-state school, over 50% of a residential student's college costs go to food and board rather than tuition.[4] You can reduce costs for your kids dramatically if you live near or even on a campus at an in-state public college and pay only for tuition and not room and board expenses. Uprooting the family may seem extreme, and forcing all the kids to attend one school may appear harsh, but if this choice makes the difference between giving your kids a university degree or not, it may be the right option for you.

If you buy a large house, you may be able to take in students as tenants or boarders with a combined room/meal contract. After all, keeping house for twelve isn't much more work or money than keeping house for six. You won't just be avoiding the high costs associated with education; you'll be profiting from them as well.