Other Sources of Money
- Federal Work-Study Program. The FWS Program provides jobs to undergraduate and graduate students with financial need, allowing them to earn money to help them pay for education-related expenses.
- Military service. The United States Armed Forces offers several programs, some of which pay 100% tuition assistance for college courses taken during off-duty hours. See the TA Program Overview for more information. If you wish to serve in the military before college, you can earn up to $50,000 for college from the Montgomery GI Bill and the Army or Navy College Fund. Or, you could earn you degree first by serving in the Air Force, Army, or Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC).
- Student sponsorships. Let a private benefactor put you through school. These programs are more popular in Europe, but are beginning to catch on in the United States, thanks in part to iempower’s MyRichUncle. A sponsorship is an investment for benefactors, as they typically are entitled to a certain percentage of your post-college income for a fixed number of years.
- Community service. Make the planet a better place and earn tuition money. What could be better? AmeriCorps pays out $4,725; Learn and Serve America and the Peace Corps also pays out tuition assistance awards to students who have completed service. Other programs such as VISTA, Teach for America, and the National Health Service Corps offers loan forgiveness programs for college graduates.
- Tuition payment plan. Sallie Mae can help you find money for tuition. Visit TuitionPay for more information.
- Savings. For risk-averse investors who want to avoid the stock market but still make a little return, the 529 College Savings Plan is the way to go. What makes this plan the best way to save for college is that it isn’t taxed and the money in it is not used to calculate a student’s financial aid eligibility. See the USNews.com article on the 529 savings plan for more information.
- Domestic exchange or study abroad programs. Studying in a different state or a different country for a semester or two can sometimes be your ticket to winning another scholarship. Visit FinAid’s page on domestic and study abroad programs for more information.
- Your state. Contact your state’s higher education agency to see if you’re eligible for any programs that they may offer. See the U.S. Department of Education’s Educational Resource Organizations Directory to find your state.
- Your employer. The company you work for, or even your parents’ employers, may offer some tuition assistance. Don’t be afraid to ask.
- Your grandparents. Have your grandparents open and contribute to a 529 plan. While your parents will be scrutinized by the federal government when determining a financial aid package, any money your grandparents provide to you will not be counted.
- Organizations and professional associations. Once you choose a field of study, find a professional association that serves that area of interest and contact them to see if they offer anything in the way of educational assistance or scholarship contests.
- Your expertise. Try selling your expertise. Whether it be tutoring a certain subject, giving music lessons, helping with resume writing, or fixing other people’s computers, put up some fliers and turn your expertise into a little campus business to make a few extra bucks a month.
Knowing where to find financial aid is just half the game. Following these helpful tips will help you maximize your aid package.
- Save in parents’ names. The federal government will expect students to contribute 35% of their income to college education, while they expect parents to contribute only 5.6%. So keep that 529 plan and any other investments in the names of the parents.
- Pay off debt. The federal government is going to consider what you have, not what you owe, when they determine your financial aid award. Liquidate some of your assets to pay off debt, and you may see a boost in aid.
- Maximize your 401(k) and IRA. Funds in accounts set aside for retirement will not be counted by the federal government when they determine your aid package. Move any extra funds into these accounts at least two years prior to filling out the FAFSA.
- Ask for more. Your university’s financial aid office can be quite accommodating, especially when it comes to personal family needs. Don’t be afraid to schedule an appointment face-to-face with another person and ask for more money.
- Keep up the good work. Financial aid often relies upon keeping up a certain courseload and GPA. Don’t get behind in your studies or slack off for a semester. It could cost you.
- Meet all deadlines. Scholarship applications and the FAFSA have deadlines. Get a calendar and mark them down. You could be the most qualified student on the planet, but if you miss a deadline, it won’t matter.
College is expensive, but the fact is most people simply do not take advantage of all of the financial resources available to them. (Maybe it’s the paperwork.) Take the time, do the research, and fill out the dreaded paperwork, and you’ll get your education much more cheaply — and maybe even for free (as in beer)!