Housewife MacGyver: Paying For Your Academic Goals

Keira is here again with another phenomenal post. As part of our academic MacGyver month, Keira will show you how to to pay for the schooling you've always wanted... using just a Swiss Army knife! Just kidding about the knife, but really, you don't have to be a financial guru (or use the knife to rob a bank) to achieve your schooling goals debt-free. Here's Keira to tell you how:

Hello again! I'm Keira, and I am a part-student, part-SAHM. Although I have done other posts on many different topics, why should you listen to me about paying for your education? Because I am about to finish my Bachelor's Degree in Psychology completely debt-free! This is my way of giving back for all the help I received to get my [priceless] education. You can do it, too!

First, let's define some terms:

Tuition: This is the cost of attending your classes. And a fact everyone seems to know is that it's expensive. What's sad is that even though tuition is a killer, it often doesn't include hidden fees (such as a lab fee, language fee, distance education fee, or "course" fee). I know. It's sad. That's how they getcha.

Books: These are almost always separate from your other fees, because classrooms rarely, if ever, provide textbooks for their entire class(es). These can be hundreds of dollars, even if you get the e-book version, because nowadays, they can come with specialized software for the students.

Scholarships: by definition, these are awards of money, or tuition waiving, that are given to a student. They are not expected to be paid back, except if conditions otherwise state (such as "If you fail a class, you must pay back the scholarship award").

Grants: Grants are sums of money given (usually by a government entity, either State or Federal) to a student, with no obligation to pay it back, unless you drop or fail a class. These are given on an as-needed basis, so you have to meet a certain level of income to qualify. You have to re-apply every year, in case your income has changed, because if it has, your awarded amount could be changed as well.

Student Loans: These are loans that can come from a variety of lenders--the US Department of Education loans money to poorer students with fantastic terms, but your bank or Credit Union probably would give you a student loan. This money has to be repaid, regardless of whether you finish your education, are dissatisfied with the quality of your education, you can not find a job, or even if you file bankruptcy. In short, you will always pay your taxes and your student loans. :)

Whew! With those out of the way, here's some ideas to get around those student loans:

Let's start with Tuition:

There are always ways to get around tuition. First and foremost is a scholarship, especially those that are awarded by the school itself--usually if you get a scholarship from the school, they have no problem waiving all or part of the tuition.

When you receive a grant through the government, you won't receive a check to spend how you like--it is credited to your college account to pay the balance. Anything leftover is yours to spend, after tuition and fees are paid for in full.

Discounted or free tuition is often given to employees of the University. Check with your potential college to see what they offer. Usually you can get some sort of discount, even being a janitor at the school. Plus, working at your University can have other benefits: you work with professors who can give you letters of recommendation, you can build your resume, and your employer will often work with your school schedule!

On Books:

The university's bookstore will make you pay the maximum price for a book. I'd suggest going there last. If you have any time, I suggest going online to search for your books. I use Amazon for their selection, and that's just the truth, not an advertisement. :)

Often, electronic versions of the textbook (if available), are cheaper, especially when you calculate shipping in. They're often the most current edition of the book as well.

On Scholarships:

Scholarships are not just for a 4.0 GPA, but not everyone knows that. Scholarships can be academic-based (my most recent one required a 3.0 GPA, not a 4.0!), activity-based (such as a sports scholarship), need-based (did you know that??), and lots of "other-based".

If you are handicapped in any way, if you are the first in your family to attend college, are poor, are a parent, are a minority, are short, or can make a tux out of duct tape for prom, there's a scholarship for you! People are silly with scholarship money, so don't give up hope! And if you feel lost in the sea of the internet looking for them, start at your school's website. They usually can have you apply once there, and it will be an application for all (or most) of their grants/scholarships!

On Grants:

You may think you have to be a special kind of poor to get government grants to go to school. :) But you don't. Even if you don't think it will be worth your time, please apply. Even if you only get a few hundred dollars, it's totally free money, and it can buy quite a few books. :)

Also, if you plan to get a special-terms loan from the government, you have to use the same application, but just check that you are interested in both grants AND loans. What could it hurt?

Also, grants are not conditional on your earning your degree. You really can take a class or two, try it out, and then not continue school. So, take a watercolor class. :) You can get grants for technical degrees and trade schools as well!

On Loans:

Alright. Be prepared to hear it from me. Try your best not to go into debt! It's just sad how hard it can be to climb out of it, but how easily it is incurred.

Remember that you cannot excuse yourself from student loans, unlike everything else. Sometimes, they can garnish your wages if you won't pay. Although I believe that an education would be one of the best things to go into debt for, try your best not to go there unless needed. Nowadays people use student loans like it's "free money"--buying cars with it, living large off of it, paying for vacations with it, and once I heard someone buying a house with them! But it's NOT free money, even if the interest doesn't accrue until 6 months after you graduate, even if they say the payment is next to nothing.

I hate to sound like a old grump, but I worked two jobs, as did my husband, to pay for what grants and scholarships wouldn't cover. We worked hard and we scrimped and saved, and even had a baby while in school. It IS possible. It won't be easy. But an easy education is a contradictory term. :)
I hope this helps all of you out there who desire learning (not even necessarily an education or degree), but don't know where to start or how to pay for it. I have treasured my education and my time in college, it has changed my life. I hope that it will do the same for you. Best of luck in all your learning!

Thanks, Keira! My husband and I also graduated with our Bachelors degrees without any student debt (hurrah!), so I, too, can attest that it IS possible. As I was applying for scholarships, my wise old dad would always tell me that it was time well-spent because, "Even if you spend 3 hours on the application and only get 100 bucks out of it, that's still WAY more money per hour than you'll make scrubbing toilets." And my job at the time was actually scrubbing toilets, and he was SO right. :)

Pop on over and say hello to Keira, and feel free to ask any questions you might have, too!

This post is part of the Housewife MacGyver series on just Lu. Read more about Housewife MacGyver and see all the posts in the series here.

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