7 unconventional ways to pay for college

So you weren’t lucky enough to be born into a fat college savings account, studious enough to land a big scholarship or poor enough to qualify for financial aid. The traditional methods for funding your higher education may seem to be drying up, but before you start considering selling your blood, consider a few more sensible ideas first. Paying for college doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg, you just have to be a little resourceful. Here are seven out-of-the-box ideas for paying for college.

1. Work it off.
Military service has long been an option for students looking to repay their college debt, but there are other ways to labor away your loans if the armed forces aren’t for you. Reduce or even cancel your debt by joining AmeriCorps, Teach for America or a similar state-sponsored program for people willing to devote their degree to public service work for a few years.

2. Pay by the month.
If the idea of writing a four-figure tuition check twice a year is too daunting, what about writing a three-figure one every month? Traditionally, students make lump-sum tuition payments, but many schools offer tuition management programs, which allow you to make 12 smaller payments per year. Such programs are generally interest-free, but typically include a small fee.

3. Go private.
As the pool of federally subsidized college loans has shrunk, the market for private loans has become more competitive, so shop around. Many programs allow you to defer payment until after graduation.

4. Look homeward.
Your parents may not have been building a college fund all these years, but it’s possible they’ve been building significant equity in their home. They can borrow against that equity to pay for part of your college education with a home equity loan or line of credit, and the interest is usually tax-deductible.

5. Trade up.
Start your four-year journey at an affordable community college, then transfer to your pricey dream university. You’ll get the same diploma as your graduating classmates, but at a fraction of the cost. Just make sure the credits from your first school will transfer to the next.

6. Start early, finish richer.
By loading up on advanced placement courses in high school, many students earn a semester or two of college credit before even setting foot on campus, shaving big bucks off their education bill.

7. Tuition you can afford: free.
There are several universities across the country that have tuition-free programs for eligible students.

When formulating any college payment plan, it’s wise to roll up your sleeves with a professional adviser at your school’s financial aid office.


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