Student Loans & Campus Jobs
If you can’t afford college expenses and sufficient scholarships and grants are not available, student loans and campus jobs can help fill the void.
1. Student loans are available through the federal and state governments. Check with your high school counseling office, your State Department of Education and the Federal Department of Education for government loans. A free booklet titled The Student Guide is available from the Federal Student Aid Information Center (800-4-FED-AID) that lists available loans and other student aid. Students can apply for education loans through the government application process at www.fafsa.ed.gov, at their school’s counseling office or financial aid office or at banks.
2. Generally, federal or state loans are more affordable than private loans and offer better terms. The government offers several types of loans to students, with the cap on the loan generally set by the school you are attending. Government agencies will use several factors to determine the type of loan you can obtain, including income level. Some loans are subsidized, such as the type that will assist you financially on your journey on how to become a nutritionist, with the government paying the interest on the loan, and other loans are not subsidized with interest accruing while you are attending school.
3. For students who don’t qualify for government loans, for whatever reason, there are private loans, generally from banks. Bank loans require that the student has established a sufficient credit history or has a co-signor that has. These loans generally have a higher interest rate and less favorable terms.
4. Keep in mind that each time you apply for a loan you may be offered different loan terms, depending on changes in your or your parents’ financial situation and market conditions. So if you at first do not succeed, try again.
5. While often difficult to arrange, a loan or gift from a relative or friend may also be available to help fund your college education. Generally, gifts paid directly to a college for tuition are tax free to the student and do not incur any gift tax. Make sure to check with a qualified tax advisor.
6. Remember, student loans need to be repaid. Keep in mind the following:
- a. If you have more than one student loan and their interest rates are higher than what’s currently on the market, you may want to consolidate your loans. Combining all your loans into one larger loan may significantly reduce your monthly payment, although it may extend the term of the loan. However, don’t combine private loans with government loans, or you may lose federal benefits such as deferments and subsidized interest.
- b. Choose the repayment option that is right for you. Options available may include fixed monthly payments, monthly payments adjusted based on your annual income, and graduated payments where initial payments are low and gradually increase.
- c. Consider automating your loan payments so you won’t make a mistake and be late. Many lenders will offer a reduced interest rate for loan payments made directly from your checking or savings account. If you do not have the funds to make a monthly payment, contact your lender to try to work out a solution.
- d. Ask your lender if they offer incentives, such as a cash-back program, for good repayment performance.
7. Another potential option for repaying student loans is the military college loan repayment program. If you enlist with the military after college, the military will make payments directly to your lender to help pay off your loan. Each branch of the service has different qualifying criteria, so it may pay to inquire with each branch.
8. If you are a federal government employee, the Federal Student Loan Repayment program permits agencies to make loan payments on certain employees’ federally backed loans. Payments can be as much as $10,000 a year for a total maximum benefit of up to $60,000. Look up this program on OPM.gov/oca/pay/studentloan.
9. If you volunteer for certain programs, some of your loan may be forgiven. Look at FinAid.org/loans/forgiveness.phtml for a list of loan forgiveness programs.
10. When all else fails, consider a work-study program at your college. Many schools like to hire work-study students because the government often subsidizes part of the wages paid to the student. Also, unlike most scholarships and grants, money earned is paid directly to the student, providing more flexibility on how the money is used. The work hours are usually very flexible, allowing sufficient time for classes and studying. Resident assistant positions may also be available in college dormitories, which generally provides free room and board.
11. Off-campus jobs are often available. Try to find a paying internship or a job that provides experience relevant to your chosen field. You may even be able to turn this work experience into college credit.
Scholarships And Grants
Potential sources of scholarships and grants include:
a. Scholarships offered by the college of your choice. Visit their web site and contact the financial aid office about scholarships and grants offered by the college. Also, contact your major’s departmental office. If possible, visit the office personally and get to know someone who works there. Often, these grants are offered solely on the basis of income levels, and not academic credentials. Make sure you check.
b. Unpublished tuition discounts of 50% or more are also being offered by many colleges in the form of merit grants to the most desirable students, regardless of income. The largest discounts are often available to students whose grades and test scores rank in the top 20% of the school’s applicant pool. However, lately some schools have been offering tuition discounts based solely on income levels, with some even relatively high levels of income qualifying. Check with the college admissions office or financial aid office.
c. The federal and state governments offer grants to students who are in lower income brackets. These include the Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship Program and the Paul Douglas Teacher Scholarship Program. Other programs include the Pell Grant program and the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant. A student may be eligible for more than one program. Ask your guidance counselor on how to inquire. And be sure to fill out the “Free Application for Federal Student Aid” (“FAFSA”). This application is available online at www.fafsa.ed.gov or by calling 800-4-FED-AID. This application process is the only way to apply for scholarships, grants and loans provided by the U.S. Government.
d. Professional associations, religious groups, civic and community organizations, fraternal groups, private foundations and local employers also offer numerous scholarships and grants. Memorial college scholarships honoring local residents may also be available. Often, you do not even need to have a relationship with the organization to qualify. Check with groups near where you live, as well as near the college, and contact the financial aid office for suggestions. Ask for help from high school counselors, acquaintances and local businesses to locate sources of aid.
e. Ethnic, religious and professional affiliations, including unions and alumni organizations, can also be a source of scholarships and grants. Check with local, regional, national and international organizations for potential aid. Also check with organizations connected with the student’s field of interest, such as the American Medical Association. Scholarships may be available for almost any interest or trait the student has. Consider using scholarship search engines like Fastweb.com, Scholarships.com, Finaid.org, CollegeAnswer.com or CollegeView.com to find these more obscure scholarships and grants. Available books include Peterson’s Scholarship Almanac, The Scholarship Handbook, and Scholarships, Grants and Prizes.
f. Many national and international corporations offer scholarships and grants. Check with your parents’ employers and employers of relatives and friends to see if they offer college assistance. Also check for outside corporate scholarships through your guidance counselor, college financial aid office and the web sites and publications noted above. Be sure to ask about National Merit Scholarships.
g. The United States Military through The Reserve Officers Training Corps offers merit-based scholarships, but requires a military commitment upon graduation. Students serving part-time in the Reserves can receive over $20,000 toward college. And for the select few, a Congressional appointment to a U.S. Military Academy covers 100% of expenses, while also requiring a military commitment upon graduation.
h. Contest scholarships are offered by many organizations, most of which are focused on writing. But before entering a contest, make sure the sponsoring organization is legitimate, is offering the award without unreasonable obligation and does not charge to apply or publish your entry.
Successfully searching for scholarships and grants is time-
consuming, hard work, but can result in a significant reduction in the out- of- pocket costs for college. Keep in mind the following tips to increase the chances for success.
a. While applications for scholarships are not generally due until the senior year of high school, searches that commence as early as the freshman year of high school provide a better chance of receiving one or more scholarships. This permits the student more opportunity to identify potential scholarships, and to better tailor the classes they take and activities they pursue, in order to meet the requirements of the scholarship or grant.
b. Earning good grades and participating in extracurricular activities will help earn scholarships. Colleges often award scholarships or grants to students with strong grades, community service or demonstrated abilities in music, writing, math, athletics, etc.
c. Look for colleges that offer the courses you really want, and where your grades and admission test scores would enhance the school’s admission standards. If a school really wants a student, they will often find financial assistance in the form of scholarships or grants to entice you to attend.
d. If you don’t find the right scholarship initially, continue to look and look often. New opportunities arise on a regular basis. Apply for as many scholarships as possible. Also, just because you did not receive a scholarship for your freshman year, many scholarships and grants are available throughout your college stay. Good grades earned in college, additional activities pursued and other events may enhance your ability to earn a scholarship.
e. Once you have identified scholarships or grants that you may qualify for, start the application process early. Make sure you know the deadlines so you will have plenty of time to gather materials and finalize and submit the application. Also, make sure you have a qualified person (perhaps a professor or teacher) look over your applications and accompanying writings, to catch any mistakes that could disqualify you from being awarded the scholarship.
Free or Reduced-Cost College Credit
The overall cost of going to college can often be reduced significantly, while still receiving a degree from the college of your choice. This is accomplished by reducing the amount of time spent earning your degree, reducing the number of courses required for graduation or substituting courses from another, less expensive school that count towards your degree.
1. You can take advanced placement classes as a way to accumulate credits that can be applied to college. Some students are able to earn an entire semester of credits before graduating from high school, thus eliminating a full semester of college expense.
2. Also take advantage of advance placement tests that count towards college credit.
3. If you are considering earning more than one degree, look into combined degree programs that save both time and money. You may be able to earn two degrees in just a little more time than it takes to earn just one degree. Or, if you are looking to earn only one degree, see if your college offers an accelerated program allowing you to earn your degree in three years rather than four.
4. You may be able to take classes at a less expensive school and transfer those credits to the college where you want to earn your degree. This can be done by attending a lower-cost school full-time, such as a local college or community college, and then transferring to the school of choice after one or two years. Or rather than attending a less expensive school full-time and then transferring, courses can be taken at the local school during the summer or other times to earn credits, both more quickly and less expensively. Just make sure that your college of choice will accept the credits that you want to transfer. Make sure you ask, and if possible get assurances in writing.
5. Local community colleges often offer dual-enrollment classes for high school juniors and seniors, where you can earn both high school credit and college credit. Once again, just make sure the college of your choice will accept the transfer of credits towards your degree.
6. In-state tuition rates at public colleges are usually far less expensive than private colleges, or the out-of-state tuition for the same public college. Many states have relatively short citizen time requirements, sometimes as short as six months. Check this out and consider moving to the state where the college is located, and going to school part time and working full time for the first semester until you qualify.
7. Ask the college if they will give you any credit towards graduation based on your prior work experience. This could save the cost of one or more courses. Also check to see if your college offers a co-operative education program where you alternate academic and paid work semesters.
8. Check to see if your college offers any discounts for early payment. Sometimes the discounts can be as high as 10%.
9. You might also consider earning a college degree online. This reduces expenses considerably and also allows you to work at the same time. Just make sure the online college is reputable and the degree earned is respectable.
College texts and other books can be a major expense of going to school, often well over $1,000 per year. There are many ways to reduce this expense as noted below:
1. Many classes have both required and recommended books. Unless instructed otherwise, only get the required books. Many recommended books are not needed for the course and are for students who will be taking other courses on the same subject. If you do need a recommended book, check to see if they have it at the library and whether it has been put on reserve. If not, ask if the library can order the book for their collection or put it on reserve.
2. Sometimes required books come with supplementary material such as workbooks, CD’s, etc. Often none of this material is used for the class. Ask your professor if the material is necessary. If not, purchase the text without the optional material. If the bookstore only has books with the material included, consider buying from another source.
3. Remember, new college texts are not just available at the campus bookstore. They may also be available at off-campus bookstores and online at Amazon.com, eBay.com, etc. Most books are available somewhere for less than their suggested retail price. CompareTextbook.com is a good site that allows you to type in the title of any college textbook and get a list of online bookstores and their prices. Alibris.com is another good site that provides information on hundreds of independent booksellers. CampusBookSwap.com is also helpful in identifying both new and used books for sale on your campus. Check prices and get the best deal.
4. Buy used textbooks from the following potential sources and potentially save a considerable amount of money (up to 50% or more). Make sure to compare prices from all sources, as they can vary widely and check the quality of the book. Also, don’t delay in finding and purchasing your books. Good used books at reasonable prices go quickly. And keep in mind that while newer versions of textbooks are most likely available used, an older version of the text book may be considerably cheaper and may be perfectly suitable for the course. Check with your professor. And, if you buy online, take into consideration shipping costs and the amount of time until the text is received.
- a. The college bookstore carries used textbooks, but generally at a relatively small discount.
- b. Other students who have previously taken the course. Campus classifieds, the campus intranet, bulletin boards, message boards, etc. are ways to locate used texts that are for sale. Also, if you know you will be taking the course the next semester and are sure the same book will be used, you can contact students presently taking the course and arrange to buy their books.
- c. Students who have signed up for the course, purchased their books and then decided to drop the course are a good source of used books that are as good as new.
- d. Off-campus bookstores that stock used books.
- e. Online booksellers that carry used college texts. A search of Google should provide you with many sites. Some sites are CheapestTextbooks.com, Ecampus.com and CollegeSwapShop.com.
5. Sharing books with other classmates can also reduce costs. While this may not be practical for texts used constantly by the class, often a class will only use a few chapters of a book or small parts of other course materials, which may permit sharing.
6. And don’t forget free books and materials. If your course requires a packet of articles or other material, many of these items may be found on the Internet for free. Many older books, such as the Classics, can also be found for free on the Internet. Try InternetPublicLibrary.com and Bartleby.com. And when all else fails, ask if the professor has a loaner you could use for the semester. Also, dictionaries, thesauri, etc. can also be found online for free.
7. While there are some exceptions, most college texts will never again be used by the student. So, when you are done with your books sell many or all of them to recoup some of your cost. Alternatives include:
- a. Advertise on the campus intranet or post on campus bulletin boards, etc. Or sell them to your friends who will be taking the course.
- b. Get quotes from online bookstores, but make sure to include your cost of packing and shipping before making a decision.
- c. Sell your books to the college bookstore, although prices are generally not very attractive, or sell your books to off-campus bookstores where pricing may be somewhat better.
- d. Use eBay.com, etc. to sell your books.
Room, Board & Transportation
Food, transportation and lodging will most likely be a major expense at college. Here are a few tips to try to control those expenses.
- 1. Eating at college is expensive. If you don’t cook and want to make sure fast food or expensive restaurant food does not become the everyday menu, the college meal plan may be a suitable alternative. However, they are generally expensive. Also, if the student chooses not to take maximum advantage of the plan, and has money left over in the meal plan at the end of the semester, these funds are generally forfeited, causing the meal plan to become very expensive. So make sure if you have a meal plan it is used to the maximum extent, given the funds spent.
- 2. College students are famous for snacking. Avoid buying snacks out of vending machines or from convenience stores. Buy snacks at grocery or discount stores and keep them in your room. If your dorm allows you to have a refrigerator or microwave this can also help in reducing food costs.
- 3. Use student discounts whenever possible. Almost everything on campus and often nearby off campus is less expensive with a student ID. Bank accounts, public transportation, the movies, eating out, flowers, malls, airlines, etc. often offer student discounts. Always ask if a student discount is available.
- 4. Leave your car at home. Unless it’s absolutely necessary to have a car in order to get home on holidays, having a car on campus is expensive and can be a hassle. Parking, insurance, theft and other auto related expenses and worries can really detract from the college experience and cost plenty. And on most campuses you can either walk to your destination or take campus transit. Or perhaps a friend has a car. And if you do leave your car at home, ask your insurance company if they give discounts for good grades and for students who attend school away from home.
- 5. Living on campus can be expensive, but living off campus can be very expensive. While dorm rooms are not cheap, living off campus has several hidden costs that need to be considered. Most off-campus students eat out more often (even though they may have kitchen facilities), spend more on transportation, and spend considerably more on utility bills. So, unless you get a great deal on off-campus housing, beware of the total cost of living off campus.
Tax Credits and Deductions
Federal and state governments often provide tax credits and deductions to help offset the cost of college. Check with your tax advisor or available publications for details, but some of the more common programs are noted below:
1. If you have student loans you may be able to deduct up to $2,500 annually on your federal income tax return for the interest you pay, depending on your income level. Deductions may also be available for state income taxes.
2. At the federal level two different tax credits may be available: The Hope Credit can be up to $1,500 for each of the first two years of college and the Lifetime Learning Credit can be worth up to 20% of the first $10,000 (or $2,000) of educational expenses for college, graduate school or professional classes. Each of these credits have income cap requirements.
3. Students who exceed the income cap requirements for the above credits may qualify for the Higher Education Tuition and Fees Deduction of up to $2,000 depending on income levels.
4. IRS, state government and other publications offer information on all deductions and credits available at both the state and federal level.
Other College Savings
When at college, there always seems to be yet another expense. Here are a few to try to minimize, if at all possible.
1. Computers, other electronics and software can often be bought on campus for less than prices at either local or national retailers. Used computers may also be available at far lower cost than a new computer, and work just as well. As for software, check to see if your school has site licenses for major software such as Microsoft Office. Also, you may be able to get a copy of these programs for very little from your school’s technology department. And do not forget to ask for student discounts wherever you buy.
2. If your laptop has wireless capability, save on Internet costs by studying in locations that have free wireless access.
3. If a student needs furniture for their dorm room or off-campus residence, check campus publications and bulletin boards, local garage sales and classifieds. Often, if you offer to move graduating seniors or even underclassmen out at the end of the year, many of them will have furniture they just want to get rid of that may be just what you are looking for. Consider renting a temporary storage cubicle to keep the furniture in until the next semester. You may even consider visiting the college at the end of your senior year in high school, when college students are moving out, to buy some cheap furniture and put it in storage until needed in the fall.
4. Medical care and prescriptions are often available on campus at a fraction of the cost of regular sources. Visits to the student health center to see a doctor or nurse are sometimes free or low cost. Filling your prescriptions at the student health center may also provide significant savings.
5. Entertainment costs can also be minimized. Check with your friends and resident adviser before you rent or buy a movie. Quite often you can just borrow the movie. Or join some friends for a movie by hooking up a DVD player to one of the dorms TV’s. And keep in mind all the great facilities and activities on campus for recreation, exercise, sports, etc. There is always something to do and quite often it is either free or very low cost.