6 Alternatives to Taking a Student Loan: Let’s face it: getting a degree in the United States is expensive. But with the labor market, as it is today, it’s also imperative.
Graduates earn $1 million more over their lifetime than their counterparts without a degree (source: Georgetown University). Another study by Pew Research Center shows that the median income gap between the two groups amounts to around $17,500 per year.
On the other hand, tuition fees keep rising. And if you look at the public institutions’ overall fees, 89.6% of their total amount is paid with student loan money.
The problem is that student loan debt can’t be erased. Yes, even if you declare bankruptcy at some point in your life. That’s not to mention that you’ll have to pay the interest – and your debt-to-income ratio will skyrocket.
Fortunately, taking a student loan isn’t the only option on the table. There are at least six alternatives that’ll help you pay for college without going into debt.
First Things First: There’s No ‘Overnight’ Solution
Before you get all too excited about these alternatives, let’s be straightforward about one thing. Whatever option you choose, it’s not going to be an easy ride. It’ll take your time and energy – a lot of both. Unless you win the lottery or come from a rich family, there are no easy solutions.
So, prepare to be overwhelmed at some point. You might have to spend some time being constantly tired. You might need to order coursework writing help by professional writers at EssayPro to keep yourself sane. You might want to call it quits in a moment of weakness – but you’ll have to keep grinding despite that.
Secure a Student Grant
The federal government is well aware that there are people who want to go to college but don’t have the means to pay tuition. That’s why it offers student grants to people from low-income households.
Student grants aren’t loans, meaning they don’t have to be repaid at the end of your studies. But there’s a catch, of course: there aren’t always enough grants to go around. On the bright side, however, there’s no need to provide any sort of information on your grades or accolades when you fill out the FAFSA.
So, if you want to try securing a grant (which you absolutely should), here are four programs that you should look into:
- Federal Pell Grants;
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG);
- Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants;
- Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants.
Win a Scholarship
Unlike grants, most scholarships are merit-based. But that’s not just about grades. (Although there are plenty of scholarships for those who have aced SAT or CAT and/or got good grades in high school.)
For example, if you’re a star athlete or excel in another extracurricular activity, there’s probably a scholarship for you. Plus, there are also some scholarships for minority groups and members of particular organizations.
How do you find the scholarships available in your area? Your best bet is to go to Sallie Mae’s website and use the search tool there. That’s because scholarships come in many shapes and forms: they can be awarded by state governments, nonprofits, companies, and schools themselves.
Combine Studies & Work
Chances are, a scholarship or a grant will cover only a part of your tuition. You’ll still need to pay the rest – ergo, you need some sort of income to do so if your family can’t cover that for you.
Typically, students are allowed to work 9 to 11 hours per week during their studies. But to be certain, check your school’s website for precise instructions. As for the type of work you can do, that’s up to you.
What’s more, no one is stopping you from launching your own business or freelancing while you’re a student! Yes, it’s usually riskier than a regular part-time job, but you won’t be restricted in terms of hours. Plus, it may turn out to be more profitable than working for someone else!
Here’s another opportunity you should know about: there’s a federal work-study program you can apply for. While you won’t feel the difference in your pocket, it’s an incentive for an employer to hire you. Under the program, the federal government will reimburse the employer a part of the wages they pay you.
Work Full-Time Whenever You Can
In summer and during holidays, there’s no limit on how many hours of work you can put in per week. So, use this to your advantage: land seasonal full-time jobs and set that money aside for tuition.
Of course, the idea might be somewhat depressing. While others relax, go on vacation, and have fun, you’ll have to work. But this is the price you might need to pay for obtaining that degree.
On the bright side, you might be able to avoid holding a part-time job during the semester by putting in a lot of work during the holidays. Plus, you don’t have to worry about assignments while you work outside of the academic semester. So, you won’t have to juggle studies and work as much.
Try to Crowdfund Your Studies
When you read ‘crowdfund,’ you probably thought about launching a GoFundMe. But while nothing is stopping you from doing that, this isn’t what this section is about. It’s about reaching out to your family and friends and asking them to chip in to help you finance your studies.
Even if they can’t spare a lot, every penny counts. So, you don’t have to go around and ask for thousands of dollars at a time – oftentimes, several hundred from a couple of people can make a huge difference. Make sure to let them know about that, too!
Plus, if your family or friends aren’t ready to subsidize your studies out of the goodness of their hearts, offer to pay them back as soon as you graduate. Most likely, they won’t ask for an interest rate – and even if they do, it’ll be lower than the one for traditional student loans.
Take More Courses Than the Minimum Required
Here’s something you might not have fully realized yet: you have to pay a fixed amount of money in tuition fees per semester. It doesn’t matter how many courses you decide to take, as long as you’ve hit the minimum credit requirement.
But how soon you can graduate is a matter of credits, not the duration of your studies. So, it’s a no-brainer: the more courses you complete within a semester, the faster you’ll finish your studies – and the less you’ll have to pay in tuition.
So, take up as many courses as you can to fast-track your graduation. Yes, you’ll have to master time management and learn to be your most productive self, but it’ll be all worth it. Just make sure you won’t burn out in the process!
If there’s one piece of advice to give you here, it’s this. Don’t rely on a single solution to pay tuition. Most likely, just getting a grant or working part-time won’t be enough on its own. But every little bit helps.
So, apply for all the programs you’re eligible for. Find a part-time gig to have an additional source of income. Ask your family to chip in. When you combine all of that, you can make the financial aspect of going to college as painless as it possibly can be.