School: do I have to pay for it?

Now that you graduated high school, are you thinking about going to college? If so, how are you going to pay for it? This is a question that doesn’t get asked often. Future college students seem to assume that the only way to get through college is by diving deep into student loans. Student loans are nowadays the norm, in fact, many say that is a necessity to earn a college degree.

The mindset that student loans are an actual necessity is dangerous. It justifies the idea that it doesn’t matter how much debt you get yourself into ‘it’s okay’ if you are reaching your goals. Phrases like ‘at the end it will all be worth it’ or ‘I deserve to have a college degree’ are often expressed by current college students. And despite that there’s a certain value in these phrases, student loans are not the only alternative. I also understand that having a piece of mind is essential throughout your studies in college. Many choose the student loans route to have a financial peace as they study and earn a degree. I get it, I understand. But is borrowing money each semester throughout your entire 4-6 years of college truly financial peace? I doubt it.

I think we all deserve to go to college. And yes, money should not keep us from earning a degree and make a decent living. But before signing off on student loans, that will take you approximately 10-20 years to payoff, it is important to know and consider all your options.

The following are 4 options that you can consider to help you explore opportunities before getting in debt with student loans:

  • The first option is scholarships. Through academic performance or artistic as well as athletic excellence you can find money to pay for your tuition and books. Websites such as scholarships.com and floridafuturefinancialaid.org will help you search for potential funds that you can apply for and use to pay college.
  • The second option is FAFSA. The government helps prospective college students according to their financial needs. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid determines students’ eligibility for both undergraduate and graduate programs. This is a free application that will only take a moment of your time and it will help you find aid for your studies.
  • The third option is corporate grants. There are plenty of organizations and sponsors that are supportive in the education of prospective college students. Start by searching according to your field of interest. Whether you want to be an educator, go into business school, or become a nurse you must look within the field that you want to work for. At times, the need within that field is so demanding that companies and government agencies offer numerous resources for individuals like you that are interested in such fields. When it comes to sponsor companies such as Publix and Chic-fil-A among others, they are advocates for education. These companies as well as others have initiative programs with the intentions to invest in staff members. According to thechickenwire.chic-fil-a.com the restaurant double the company’s investment in Team Members’ college educations – providing $4.9 Million in scholarships in 2017 alone, as well as access to tuition discounts and other benefits at more than 70 colleges and universities nationwide. You must seek within, be resourceful.
  • Last option on the list is ‘pay as you go’. Paying tuition as you go it’s also another smart alternative when attending to college. It’s like going at your own pace. At your own pace, you can create an affordable plan to pay for your tuition while you work and attend school. Going at your own pace means that you will only register for the classes that you can afford. If you can only afford one class per semester than that means that you will only take one class. I understand that this way will take longer to achieve your goals, but at least is a free debt alternative with a safe financial plan. Who knows? Perhaps the next semester you can afford two classes and speed the process up.

Earning a college degree is an accomplishment that your family and friends would be proud of, but so is having financial stability. You should endeavor to have both. Taking responsibility of your future finances is just as important as earning a college degree. Desiring to get into college is a unique experience, but planning how to get through it is a big part of it. Enjoy!

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Santos A. O’Neill, a contributor to this blog, is a senior educator and post-graduate student that works with teens and young adults as they equip to go to college. He also works as a high school teacher and an athletic coach.

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