Most people grow up hearing that a college education is a good investment, but it comes with an increasingly higher price tag. College tuition has more than doubled since the 1980s. Wages have also gone up, but they haven’t kept pace with the massive increase in college prices. Many current students grew up with parents who could work full or even part-time jobs and pay for college; that’s just not feasible nowadays.
Almost two-thirds of graduating students in 2018 left campus with some debt, and the average amount owed is $29,200. The numbers are alarming, but don’t despair: Loans aren’t your only option. Here are three slightly more unconventional ways to pay for your schooling.
Appeal For More Financial Aid
Not many people do this, mostly because not many people know that they can do it. They think the financial aid letter they receive is a final offer. It may help to view it instead as an opening offer that allows you to try and negotiate a higher amount.
But what can you say in your appeal letter to make the college reconsider? A complex financial situation is worth mentioning. Sure, maybe the college thinks your parents can contribute a certain amount, but it’s missing key information, including the fact that your mother just got laid off from a well-paying job. Not every type of financial strain is going to show up on FAFSA.
You can also appeal to the college’s sense of competition. Let’s say their biggest rival also admitted you, but with a significantly higher financial aid package. But you’d really prefer College A over College B, partly because it’s closer to your hometown. If you play your cards right, you can leverage one school’s offer in a way that encourages the other school to bump up your financial aid package. Don’t get too full of yourself, though. You don’t want to seem so arrogant that colleges decide they’d much rather have you be someone else’s problem.
Find Money Owed To You Elsewhere
The old cliche says “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Yet sometimes there is free money. This is especially likely if you’re a non-traditional college student who is going back to school after a few years in the real world. You may have unclaimed wages that you never got. Perhaps you overpaid some taxes and have yet to receive a refund.
The point is, you won’t know until you search for money on GoLookUp or another reputable money recovery site. But be wary of scammers who are just trying to get your financial information. The Federal Trade Commission says refund and recovery scams often start when someone calls you and claims they’re a government official who wants to help you get money back.
If your gut is telling you something seems too good to be true, listen to it. If a site like GoLookUp tells you that you’re owed money, you should be able to confirm that by checking with a local government website or agency. But that means you’ll have to reach out and get what is owed to you. In the vast majority of cases, someone who contacts you and claims they have money for you is trying to con you.
Consider A Shorter Program
As college becomes more expensive, it becomes even more important to consider if a traditional four-year program is going to serve you best. If you want to go to law school, then yes, you need to start by getting a bachelor’s degree. But you might want to become a medical assistant instead of a doctor. In that case, certification or licensure might be a better bet.
Such programs often take a year or two instead of four or five years. If automotive and diesel certifications are something that interests you more than sitting in a classroom and learning organic chemistry, then that’s OK. Give yourself permission to do what you want rather than what everyone says you should pursue.