The long-term benefits of a college education are clear, but when you’re trying to figure out how to pay for it while still juggling your daily responsibilities, that’s when things can feel a little daunting. Luckily, there are numerous funding sources available to help you finance your degree.
Once you’ve calculated a rough idea of the total cost of your education you can start piecing together what kind of funding options make the most sense for your needs.
Here are 8 funding ideas to get you started:
- Federal student loans
Borrowing can be a smart way to pay for school as long as you understand how student loans work, how they’re different from other types of debt, and how long it will take you to pay them off. The U.S. Department of Education’s federal student loan program is the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program. These loans are typically offered with very low interest rates. and can be subsidized (the interest is paid by the federal government while you’re in school) or unsubsidized (the interest accrues while you’re in school, but you don’t have to start payments until after graduation).
To qualify for either type of federal student loan, you must fill out the FAFSA application for federal student aid.
Federal student loans are almost always preferable to private loans, but if you don’t qualify for aid or need to supplement your financing, private loans from banks and other financial institutions are also widely available. If you choose to go the private loan route, make sure you review the interest rates and terms of the loan carefully before signing so you don’t get caught in a repayment plan you won’t be able to manage in the future.
Grants are need-based, financial aid awards to help pay for tuition and costs. Federal Pell Grants are need-based grants provided to low-income students. The amount awarded will vary based on your economic situation, but you can potentially receive up to $6,195 a year. There also may be state and corporate grants that apply to your situation.
Scholarships are widely available and can vary tremendously in type, eligibility requirements, money awarded, and terms and conditions. Many organizations and institutions offer scholarships based on a range of different criteria, including financial need, scholarly merit, ethnic heritage, and so on. It’s always worth applying for as many scholarships as you can, since they don’t need to be repaid and even small amounts can add up to big savings in the long run. There are a number of online scholarship databases available to help you get started in your search.
Many companies offer tuition reimbursement and financial incentive programs as a benefit to their employees to help pay for schooling. In general, employers are looking to cultivate the people in their organizations by helping them gain more education and develop new skills that will be useful to the company. Check with your HR department to see if you’re eligible for any tuition reimbursement or financial assistance programs.
If you’re a service member in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard, you may qualify for education benefits through the national GI Bill. Many schools will also offer additional discounts and savings to military personnel on top of the benefits they already receive through their service branch.
529 College Savings Plans
If you don’t plan on pursuing your degree for a few years but want to start saving now, a 529 college savings plan is a great option. A 529 allows you to save money, tax-free, in a special account that earns a return on investments, much like a mutual fund. The money in the fund can then be spent on things like tuition, books, housing, and other school-related expenses. You can benefit from other education-related tax benefits, too, like the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit, both of which allow you (or your parents if you are their qualified dependent) to receive a tax credit for tuition payments.
The Strayer Graduation Fund
If you decide to enroll at Strayer, the Graduation Fund program rewards achievement. For every three classes that you successfully complete, you earn one class towards your last year of classes in your bachelor’s degree program. Plus: every new undergraduate is automatically enrolled.
Learn more about tuition and financial aid at Strayer University, and get in touch with an Admissions Officer to discuss your specific background and questions.