Today, college has become so expensive that parents start saving for their child’s college education from the day they are born. Countries such as Germany, Denmark, and New Zealand do not place the burden of paying for higher-level education on the shoulders of their students, nor do they allow their students’ yearly tuition and fees to exceed a set amount.
In the U.S., however, many students see their chances of attending college fade because of the financial sacrifices that must be made to pay for their education. American students who are not able to pay the annual average of $24,610 for public colleges or $49,320 for private colleges, have to face one of two realities: take out student loans or mark off college as an unattainable goal.
Students who take out a loan could end up like 44 million other Americans, who together owe over $1.3 trillion in student loan debt. Though student loans can seem like a necessary evil to achieve a greater cause, they don’t have to be. There are a variety of programs for prospective students that offer financial aid and don’t need to be repaid.
Here are some you can benefit from:
- Grants: Through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), students have access to grants that are based on financial need. These grants are available to students attending four-year institutions, community colleges, and even career schools.
- Scholarships and cash rewards: There are different types of merit-based aid available for almost any student pursuing an education; from athletic and creative awards to scholarships for ethnic minorities and women. Some organizations will even offer you an award for being left-handed or promoting vegetarianism. Do your research and you’re sure to find a scholarship that suits you.
- Employer tuition reimbursement: A recent study, found that tuition-reimbursement program participants were more likely to be promoted and grow within their company. That’s why an estimated 60 percent of companies, including Bank of America, AT&T, and Starbucks, among others, offer some kind of tuition reimbursement to their employees, as long as classes pertain to the company’s interest.
- Military-based funding: The Post-9/11 GI Bill, gives many benefits to military members, including up to 36 months of education benefits for those who have served over 90 consecutive days. Additionally, active military members can receive tuition assistance that is capped at $4,500 per year, which is a great way to start or finish a degree.
If loans become an unavoidable route, the least that can be done is avoiding default or delinquency. Take the time to fully understand your loan agreement and the kind of loan you’re receiving. You should never borrow more than you can expect to be able to repay or more than you need. A realistic plan will keep you on the right track toward repaying your loans.
An option that many are not aware of is having all loans forgiven through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. To qualify you must work full-time in a non-profit organization or be a full-time employee at a federal, state or local government agency.
In addition to having your loans forgiven, there are various student loan debt help companies that advertise themselves on Facebook, your Google browser, and even in your mailbox. However, before calling or signing up for any of their services, it’s important to know of the many scams that are out there. Remember, you don’t have to pay someone to get help with your federal student loans.
Even though many students find themselves in school-related debt, there are options to help alleviate this burden. No matter the high costs associated with funding it, your education should always remain your highest priority.
By Tiana Headley