Parent College Coach Tip #14: Creative Ways to Finance an Education

Creative ways to finance an educationWith tuition and other college costs rising, parents are looking for creative ways to finance an education for their college-bound teen. It goes without saying that scholarships are the obvious choice, although it requires much work and commitment to search and apply. Grants from the federal and state government help many parents supplement the cost, but not every family qualifies. Grants and scholarships from the colleges themselves are also available to accepted students with good grades and high test scores.

What about student loans?

What do you do if your student doesn’t fall into any of these categories and you haven’t been able to save for college? Don’t despair, there are creative ways you and your student can finance an education by taking out minimal student loans. Student loans are controversial because of high student debt, but research also shows that students who are invested financially in their education tend to do better in college. Word of warning however, don’t borrow any more than is needed and try to stay away from high interest private loans. Government student loans–Stafford and Perkins–have low interest rates and are always the best choice.

Are there other creative ways besides loans to finance an education?

Yes. Here are just a few of them:

  • Work while you attend–There are several colleges that let you work while you attend and pay your tuition. In exchange for free tuition, students at the College of the Ozarks work on campus 15 hours a week. Possible jobs at this Missouri college include dairy farming and custodial work.
  • Pursue a specific career path–Look for colleges that award scholarships to students who are pursuing special careers. Colleges offer free tuition to students who pursue specific career paths or areas of interest. For instance, prospective students must audition for enrollment into Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. Those accepted receive full-tuition scholarships.
  • Be a PSAT merit finalist–The key word here is “finalist.” You don’t have to win a merit scholarship to take advantage of this perk. Scoring high enough on the PSAT to become a Scholar, a Finalist or a Semi-Finalist can equal big money at some schools–public and private. That means your student may only need to score high enough to make it to the last round; he or she doesn’t even have to be the last one standing. This list of colleges was compiled a few years ago and may have had some changes; but use it as a guide when you are researching colleges (and then you can ask if the policy still exists).
  • Go to a college that meets 100% of financial need–Many of these colleges are selective, but it’s worth taking a look at the list and their admission requirements just to check. The College Solution blog provides a list of colleges.
  • Serve your country–This may not be for everyone, but it is an option–and it’s not just at the nation’s military academies. Once you serve your tour of duty, the G.I. Bill pays for education costs.

In addition, some colleges also give you the option to pay tuition in equal payments throughout the school year. If your student doesn’t fit into any of these groups, there is always community college or working for a year after graduation and saving up the money to attend. If the education is important to him and to your family, it’s definitely a viable alternative.

Author: Suzanne Shaffer

Suzanne Shaffer advises parents and students in the college admissions process and the importance of early college preparation at She is excited to share her knowledge with the readers of Smart College Visit.

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