If you've earned a high school diploma and you're ready to take the prestigious leap for a higher education, be prepared for sticker shock. The costs of a college degree can be astronomical. But with the right combination of scholarships, college student loans and work-study programs, you can make the leap without landing yourself in heavy debt.
Plan A: Money for nothing. Here are two proven sources of money, which can help you cover costs without costing a dime:
Scholarships. There are an enormous range of scholarships, which are financial grants given to students for academic, athletic or artistic merit. There is also a wide range of unusual scholarships based on virtually everything from where you live to where your ancestors lived. Start searching for the scholarship that matches your profile.
Financial aid based on lower income. Other alternatives exist beyond scholarships and students loans. Based on your income, you may also be able to receive financial aid from the government or an individual school.
Plan B: Interest rates and elbow grease. You can also borrow funds or work off the cost of college in the following ways:
- Federal and private loans. One of the most popular ways to finance college is through a student loan. There are government, as well as private, loans. Federal student loans include Stafford Loans for students and PLUS Loans for parents. These tend to be the most cost-effective. Private student loans are also very competitive and involve much less paperwork.
- Work study and career-specific financing. Many colleges offer work-study programs, the equivalent of washing dishes in a restaurant to pay for your dinner. Specific trades-such as nursing or the military-offer co-op programs, in which you work for a participating company while you're going to school.
If you're like most students, you'll opt for a combination of the above options. Used wisely, they can help forward your education without pushing you backwards into serious debt. And the long-term rewards-intellectual growth and enhanced earning power-will be worth every penny.
Other options include student loan refinancing (refinance).