A college education is an investment in your or your child’s future. Those with a college degree continue to earn more than those without one, and they typically have greater job security. Going to college can also provide a unique opportunity to build lasting professional connections. Ready to start thinking about how you’ll fund your education?
Like any investment, going to college does have its risks. With the ever-increasing cost of tuition, those risks continue to grow. More and more, students and parents are finding themselves priced out of an education.
The average annual price tag of tuition for a four-year public school is $9,349 for in-state students. That same education for out-of-state students costs $27,023. After additional expenses, the annual cost jumps to $25,487 for in-state students and $43,161 for out-out-state students. Private institutions are even more. The average cost of four-year non-profit schools is $53,217 annually (tuition and additional expenses). Four-year for-profit schools average $35,125.
Most students and parents look into loans as a first option to fund college education costs. While loans provide a quick fix, the long-term effects of taking out a loan can be financially devastating. The interest alone could end up doubling or tripling the total cost of your degree, and you could spend upwards of 30 years paying it all back.
One of the last things you want to do is go into debt to get a college degree. Fortunately, you don’t have to. With some research and creativity, you may find much more suitable alternatives.
Why to Research and Compare Funding Options for Education
Taking the time to research your options could uncover some pretty unique solutions. For instance, did you know that some jobs may reimburse a portion of education costs?
Getting started early is crucial. The sooner you begin your research, the more options you’ll uncover. You’ll also have more time to compare them and see which ones offer the best solution.
Possibly the most significant benefit of researching your funding options is that you’ll find you don’t have to take out loans to go to college. Not only can that discovery provide relief, but it can also help set you up for greater financial freedom in the future.
8 Ways to Fund Education Costs Without Going Into Debt
Let’s take a look at some solutions for funding education costs that don’t involve saddling yourself with debt:
1. Pay Cash
If you’re wondering how to pay for school without loans, one of your best options is to budget for the cost, save up, and pay cash. That way, you won’t have to wonder where you’re going to get the money from later. If you have young children, now could be a great time to start the process.
You could also convert your home’s equity. A home equity loan typically has lower interest rates than student loans, which can make it more affordable. However, it does use your home as collateral, and it’s still a loan.
Alternatively, you could look into a sale-leaseback to release your equity. With this solution, you won’t have to worry about paying anything back. How it works: you sell your home, converting your equity into cash. However, you get to stay in your home as a renter. When you’re ready, you can repurchase your home or sell it on the open market.
2. Complete the FAFSA
All students have the ability to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Based on the information you provide, a school will estimate how much they believe you can contribute and determine how much aid they can offer you. They’ll also let you know the types of aid you qualify for, which could include federal grants, work-study, and state and school aid. You may find loans among the options, too, so keep an eye out.
3. Choose a “No-Loan” School
There are numerous schools across the US that aim to help students pay for education without having to resort to loans. Instead, they create financial aid awards based on a student’s need. They typically determine need using the FAFSA and the CSS Profile.
The awards generally include grants, scholarships, and work-study opportunities. What they don’t contain are loan options. While no-loan policies won’t always mean no tuition costs, these schools can mean a drastically reduced education bill.
4. Research Scholarships
While they do require some work (writing essays or completing other projects), scholarships are an invaluable source of free money for school. A quick internet search will uncover countless opportunities, many of which may you may never have heard of before.
Awards range from a few hundred to several thousands of dollars. If you’re looking for a way to cover college costs, they’re well worth the time and effort investment.
5. Take Core Classes at a Community College First
Community colleges cost much less than other colleges and universities. While your local school might not be able to give you the degree you need for the career you want, it can provide you with core credits at a more affordable rate.
After completing those classes, you can transfer to a more expensive school to focus on the credits you need for your degree, which will significantly reduce your total education costs.
6. Work Through School
For those who qualify for this particular form of financial aid, a work-study job is a great way to earn money while also earning a degree. However, not everyone does.
Another option is an off-campus job. You can pick up a part-time position with a flexible schedule that works with your school schedule. Alternatively, you can work full-time and go to school part-time. It may take longer to get your degree, but you won’t have to go into debt doing so.
7. Explore Employer Reimbursement Programs
Several companies offer tuition reimbursement programs, meaning they’ll cover at least a portion of an employee’s college education. They include organizations like Amazon, Chik-Fil-A, Starbucks, Target, and Home Depot. If you’re currently employed, it’s worth checking to see if (and what) your employer might provide.
8. Consider Military Service
Joining the military is a substantial commitment. However, in addition to allowing you to serve your country, it can also fund your college education. If you complete your service first, you’ll receive access to GI Bill benefits that cover all tuition and fees at a public university (or up to a specified amount for private schools). If you go to school first and join an ROTC program, you may be eligible for scholarships.
Earn a Degree without Going into Debt
The rapidly increasing cost of college can be scary, especially when you don’t think you’ll be able to afford it without loans. Contrary to popular belief, however, you don’t have to choose between an education and significant debt or no education at all. Short of budgeting and saving for it early on, there are scholarship opportunities, grants, reimbursement programs, and so many other solutions available.
Don’t automatically jump to loans first. Before you start filling out applications, take a good look at your other options. You may find better solutions to afford school without having to go into debt.
If a sale-leaseback solutions sound like the best option for you, consult a financial advisor to learn more.
One of the last things you want to do is go into debt to get a college degree. With some research and creativity, you may find much more suitable alternatives. If you are still unsure of alternative options to consolidating your amount of debt after reading this article, consult a financial advisor to discuss your options.