How College Students Can Stay On Budget
Education is one of the best ways to improve your earning potential and your chances of staying employed. College makes good economic sense in the long term, but there are serious economic obstacles up front. A year in an American college carries an average price tag ranging from $24,610 for an in-state public institution to $49,320 for a private institution. 70% of students take out loans to help cover the costs, and millions of Americans graduate with thousands of dollars of debt before they even receive their first paycheck. Reducing what you spend on education can help you graduate with a lower financial burden.
If you're among the millions of low to middle-income students whose families struggle to afford the rising costs of education, don't think that you are helpless. There are many ways to cut costs and make college life more affordable, from finding help with tuition and fees to cutting back on day-to-day expenses. Let's look at some practical ways to lower the cost of education.
Scholarships and grants are not loans, and you don't have to pay them back. Your income level might qualify you for financial aid. Even if you don't think you're eligible, it doesn't hurt to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is the first step toward a wide range of government-funded grants, most notably the Pell Grant, a need-based financial assistance program that can cover up to $6,195 per year.
If you have good academic standing or have a sport, you can also apply for merit-based scholarships. Make sure to read the fine print. Some might require that you maintain a certain GPA or have other ongoing requirements.
Private scholarships offered by companies and other organizations are another option. Online services like FastWeb or the College Board's Scholarship Search can help you find awards based on your location, major, and other search criteria.
If you're among the millions of low to middle-income students whose families struggle to afford the rising costs of education, don't think that you are helpless.
Many schools offer work-study programs for students in need. Ask your university's Financial Aid Office about what kind of work you could get, how many hours you can work a week, and how much you'll earn. If work-study isn't an option for you, you might be able to find part-time employment at the various shops, restaurants, or cafes around your school.
There are also work opportunities online. Many websites can match you with people who are in need of freelancers for writing, tutoring, graphic design, photography, etc. and pay on a per project or per hour basis. There are also websites for local jobs like babysitting and tutoring to help supplement your income.
Consult your school's Financial Aid Office, and let them know about your financial situation. Is your family paying off expensive medical bills? Has your family's income changed since you applied to university? It's their job to give you options for assistance and aid, and they are likely to know about less publicized possibilities and options.
Feeling sick, or need a therapist to take care of your mental health? Use the campus clinic and counseling services. They're often much cheaper than going to an outside clinic or hospital and may be covered entirely by your tuition and miscellaneous fees.
Textbooks are a huge college expense. Your campus library might stock your required textbooks, and if it does, you can borrow them free. You can also rent textbooks from some bookstores and online sites for a fraction of the cost of buying them.
Make the most out of your meal plan, if you have one. You've already paid for those meals and using them can save you a ton of money on groceries and eating out.
The longer you're in college, the more you'll spend. Most students take longer than four years to earn their bachelor's degree. Those additional years can rack up quite a bill. Taking on extra course work each semester or during the summer can shorten the amount of time you spend at university, lowering your overall costs.