Paying for College: How To Pay For School On Your Own

by Millie Kay G. on December 21, 2008

With the continuous rise in college costs, paying for college may seem like a growing challenge, if not an impossibility. Here are our suggestions on how to pay for school on your own.

The University of Oklahoma is a lot like other universities out there. It is famous for its football program, but if I were a student there, I’d be worried about the rising cost of tuition. This year, a student from this state can expect to pay almost $190 per credit hour, while the fees go up for non-residents.

If you’re one of many folks wondering how you’re paying for college without the benefit of a college savings account, then please read on about some options that may help you out. Using certain strategies and the assistance of an online financial coaching staff, we can make it to the graduation endzone without getting tackled by thousands in student loans.

paying for college, how to pay for school
Awesome image from Invisibleman.

6 Ways To Pay for School On Your Own

1. Look into paying for college with work income.

Back when I attended college, I didn’t have options like a 529 account or other savings rewards programs that can support a 529 college savings plan, so I funded part of my tuition through various jobs as a student worker, then at a nearby mall. A neighbor recently told me that her granddaughter pays for college and her other expenses by working Fridays to Mondays; the freshman goes to classes on the other days. I’ve also met people who saved quite a bit of income from their summer jobs.

Then there are those who opt to work for a few years or even decades before completing their degrees. Some of my relatives found success as older students. Also, it’s easier to skip the loans and pay cash for tuition after saving up the money during several years in the workforce.

Another idea is to find employment at a university. For example, the University of Texas at El Paso allows full-time employees the chance to register for a course; in addition, the employees can seek fee waivers.

2. Seek tuition assistance from employers and programs.

There are still employers and programs out there willing to help pay for college costs. Some possibilities:

  • The Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) is a good option if you’re interested in a military career and can commit to several years of service.
  • Teach for America offers benefits such as loan forbearance and tuition assistance.
  • AmeriCorps can offer you some additional benefits as well.

Or you can seek out an internship with a company that can give you on the job skills as well as college credit. BusinessWeek compiled a list of the best internships of 2008 for undergraduates.

3. Check out affordable community college courses.

If you need to take a bunch of general courses, they’re generally cheaper at community colleges. For instance, Tulsa Community College even has a flexible tuition payment plan that allows students the choice of five different payment schedules. Before you sign up for classes, make sure the credits will transfer to your university. Some students I know felt like they were penalized after they transferred schools when they had to pay for similar courses again.

4. Apply for financial aid.

During my quest for college funding, I always made sure to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Thanks to it, I was able to secure a few scholarships and grants each semester. It’s worth it to start the application as soon as possible — one student I knew missed the deadline one year and had to scramble to secure alternative financing. Debra Lipphardt’s book The Scholarship & Financial Aid Solution also offers advice that may be beneficial.

5. Graduate early?

There are other ways to cut your college-related expenses, too. One foreign student I knew opted to finish her degree in three years rather than the traditional four, which saved her thousands. If possible, take classes during the summer and finish up a semester early. Although you’ll miss the pomp and circumstance of a spring graduation, you’ll benefit more from starting your career ahead of your classmates.

6. Cut other college costs too.

Think about reducing your non-tuition expenses. I moved off-campus the moment I did the math and learned that a non-university apartment costs far less each month. Making my own meals instead of paying for a campus dining plan saved me a lot of money, too. Compare Purdue’s dining plans to the cost of easy-to-prepare meals and you’re likely to see a difference. I didn’t have a car then, but between the costs of parking permits, gas, and insurance, it would’ve been more economical to rely on public transportation anyway.

Instead of going to another state or Mexico for spring break, bankroll the money for unexpected expenses instead (best in a high yield savings account like Ally Bank that feeds into a checking account) — things like the extra textbook the professor suddenly mentions or the supplies for a massive project due next week. Those items weren’t covered by my financial aid and I’d rather have some money set aside in an emergency cash fund than regret the extra poolside margaritas.

Remember, paying for college, like football, takes perseverance and the willingness to do some prep work. Round up your cheerleaders, get to work, and before you know it, you’ll score big for your next semester. Good luck!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 kyrie January 14, 2009 at 9:21 pm

Students may avail of more scholarships, internships and other benefits in when they create their online resumes there. They can meet with fellow students through the social network integrated within the site and learn from outstanding profiles on how to improve one’s portfolio.

2 Johanne January 15, 2009 at 11:55 pm

Very sensible tips. It’s really important to be practical – controlling your spending when necessary – especially now with the economic downturn.

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