As tuition costs rise and the economy stands still in the post-recession slump, you may be asking yourself whether a college degree is worth the paper it’s printed on. As expensive an investment as going to school is, however, the potential return is still greater than the initial investment, according to a recent Census Bureau study, which found that a bachelor’s degree will increase your lifetime earnings by up to $1.2 million. Given that college still actually is a worthwhile investment, the question then becomes how in the world are you supposed to pay for it? Especially for high school students just graduating who have never even seen the likes of $40,000, the prospect of paying for school is both mysterious and intimidating. But there are ways to pay for school, and many, many more opportunities out there for funding than you might initially think. Here are some of the most common ways to pay for school in this economic climate:
1. Scholarships & Grants
Scholarships and grants make up a large portion of the money used to pay for school, primarily because they are free money. Scholarships are usually need or merit based and don’t need to be paid back as they are reward for accomplishments; grants are typically need based and often given out by the government. Submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid to see if you qualify for federal funding, and how much they will allot you. Many schools offer scholarships and financial aid packages, so it is a good idea to apply to around a dozen schools, so that you have options. Not every school will offer the same amount, and in this climate your decision should be in part based on how much a school can provide. Generally public schools are able to provide more comprehensive financial aid packages, but some private institutions will give full-ride scholarships to outstanding students who couldn’t otherwise afford school.Lastly, there are hundreds of scholarships awarded by businesses, religious groups, service organizations, associations, and foundations — search on Fastweb for something that fits and apply. You can never have too much scholarship money!
2. Student Loans
Loans are not the most attractive option of paying for college, but they are probably the most frequently used. Student loans usually have high interest rates because student borrowers generally don’t have positive or sufficient credit. This means that you will be paying back the loan plus interest for years after you graduate. Make sure you carefully weigh your options before seeking out a loan, and if you do, try to get a subsidized loan. The government will pay the interest on subsidized loans while you are in school, so it will be that much less that you have to pay back later. One of the best loans options for many students is a federal Direct Loan. Investigate loans thoroughly, and try to minimize the amount you borrow by applying for scholarships and holding a part time job.
3. Military Service
While joining the military certainly is not for everyone, it does have its benefits for those who do, especially if they want to pursue higher education while serving. The armed service attempts to be as accommodating as it can to soldiers that wish to continue their education and will pay up to $4,500 a year for active members. Plus, if a soldier has spent more than 90 days on active duty she is eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which sometimes pays for 100% of a soldier’s tuition.Again, the military is not for everyone, and you should seriously consider whether serving your country is a commitment you want to make. That being said, there are many perks and benefits, as well — you will just have to decide if it is worth it to you.It might seem like it is impossible to pay for school, but as the old saying goes, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
About the Author: This guest post is contributed by Katheryn Rivas, who writes on the topics of online universities advice. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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