With the growing cost of college tuition, it’s become increasingly more difficult for students to pursue higher education. But don’t lose heart – while crowdfunding is one great option for financing your education, there are plenty of other ways to pay for college in case you fall short of your fundraising goal.
Financial aid is available to anyone whose family doesn’t have the means to financially support them through school. FAFSA (the Free Application for Federal Student Aid) allows the student to apply for aid by filling out details about his or her family’s background; this includes total household income, savings, and any assets they happen to own. Depending on these factors, the student may qualify for a full or partial grant.
Tip: If your parents have divorced or separated, only list the parent who claims you as a dependent. That way the total household income stated on your application will be lower, and your chances of receiving a greater subsidy will be higher.
If you don’t qualify for financial aid, don’t lose heart. A common misconception is that scholarships are merit-based, however, you don’t need to be at the top of your class in order to be eligible for what’s out there. Lots of scholarships are centered on need, location, talent, and even heritage. Most high school seniors qualify for roughly 50-100 scholarships, completely unbeknownst to them.
Tip: Chances are you’ll qualify for more state scholarships than national ones. Look at local organizations and institutions or check with your guidance counselor about what’s available in your area.
National and State Grants
The Department of Education offers a number of federal grants (see: financial aid) to students, including Pell Grants, Academic Competitiveness Grants, National SMART Grants, and TEACH grants. Even though the amount of relief you qualify for is generally needs-based, other factors like the cost of tuition, your status as a student, and your course work will also be taken into account. Grants don’t necessarily need to come out of federal money either; nonprofit organizations, religious institutions, and charities can also provide monetary grants to students.
State grants are also worth applying to, especially if you want to maximize your chance of receiving a full aid package. While grants on the state level can be more competitive (they usually require that you have a minimum GPA) there tends to be a greater pool of aid available to those who apply on a local scale.
Tip: State grants typically require that you fill out an additional form to FAFSA, so make sure you do your research about how to apply. For example, to apply for a Cal Grant you’d need to fill out the CADAA.
Federal loans are often used in combination with grants and are a great way to make up for any extra costs if your aid package doesn’t cover everything. There’s a limit as to how much you can borrow (to ensure you’re not saddled with debt) plus federal loans have extremely low-interest rates compared to private loans.
Tip: The Department of Education pays the interest on direct subsidized loans when you’re in school as well as the first six months after you graduate.
Official benefactors can include the Military, Coast Guard, Air Force, AmeriCorps, Peace Corp, National Health Services Corps, and ROTC programs.
ROTC (reserve officer training corps)
Their programs prepare college students for the military once they’ve graduated. Over a thousand universities offer this program, allowing students to pursue a university education without having to worry about tuition or room and board. You will be expected to complete military training and to commit to 12 years of service after graduation, however.
The Army, Air Force, and Navy
Each has their own programs with their special set of requirements, while the US Coast Guard doesn’t offer the same ROTC initiative. Instead, they have a similar training program known as the College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative.
AmeriCorps and Peace Corps
If you want to volunteer in exchange for education awards (whether it be domestically or internationally), then there’s always the AmeriCorps or Peace Corps. You’ll receive upwards of $5000 for each year served in AmeriCorps and $8,000 for every two years in the Peace Corps, in addition to a monthly stipend to cover your cost of living.
Tip: There’s a fellowship program available to Peace Corps volunteers continuing with their upper education called the Paul D Coverdell Fellows program.
Everyone is entitled to an education. Now that you’re armed with this information, you’ll be able to make the choice that’s best suited to you and your situation. Don’t forget that you can always alleviate some of the financial strain by starting a free fundraiser, oftentimes in tandem with the above.
Thinking about grad school? Learn How to Pay for Graduate School Without Loans.