How to Pay for College Tuition: Top 6 Ways

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| 7 min read Financial Assistance

With the growing cost of college tuition, it’s become increasingly more difficult for students to pursue higher education. But don’t lose heart—while crowdfunding is one great option for raising money for school, there are plenty of other ways of paying college fees in case you fall short of your fundraising goal. Read on to learn how to pay for college.  

6 ways to pay for college

1. Financial aid

It’s difficult to pay for college without the necessary funds to cover tuition. Financial aid is one of the well-known options available to anyone whose family doesn’t have the means to financially support them through school. FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid and it is offered by the US government. It allows a student to apply for aid by filling out details about his or her family’s background. This includes total household income, savings, and any assets they happen to own. Depending on these factors, the student may qualify for a variety of financial aid ranging from federal and state to school and private sources.

Tip: If your parents have divorced or separated, only list the parent who claims you as a dependent. This way, the total household income stated on your application will be lower, and your chances of receiving a greater subsidy will be higher.

2. Crowdfunding

If you’re wondering how to pay for college without loans, consider turning to crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is also a great option if you’re wondering how to pay for college without parents’ help. For many people, parents aren’t able to cover the cost of college and its expenses. The good thing is that anyone can start a fundraiser to raise money for school. Using GoFundMe to crowdfund for college has its advantages, including:

  • No application process to start fundraising.
  • Once you start receiving donations, there is no long wait period to get your funds.
  • Unlike loans, you aren’t expected to pay anything in return when crowdfunding. 
  • Easily share your fundraiser far and wide, from family and friends to strangers everywhere who want to support you and your college education.

Tip: Writing an impactful and inspiring fundraiser story can help you reach your fundraising goal. Be transparent and share what your college goals are as well as your needs and a breakdown of costs. This way, donors will know what their donations are going towards. Check out our blog post on college fundraising tips for more information.

Want to know more about how GoFundMe works? Check out our video:

3. Scholarships

Scholarships are the closest to free money for college you can get. If you don’t qualify for financial aid, don’t get discouraged. A common misconception is that all scholarships are merit-based. In reality, you don’t need to be at the top of your class in order to be eligible for what’s out there. Lots of scholarships are centered on need, location, talent, and even heritage. Most high school seniors qualify for roughly 50-100 scholarships, which they may not even know about.

Tip: Chances are you’ll qualify for more state scholarships than national ones. Look at local organizations and institutions or talk with your guidance counselor about how to go to college for free even if you don’t have a stellar performance to back you, and what’s available in your area. You can also research online.

4. Federal and state grants

Grants are a great way to get money for college since they don’t have to be repaid, unlike student loans. The U.S. Department of Education offers a number of federal grants to students. Even though the amount of relief you qualify for is generally need-based, other factors like the cost of tuition, your status as a student, and your coursework will also be taken into account. Get help paying for college with these federal grant programs:

  • Federal Pell Grants: Usually only awarded to undergraduate students with exceptional financial need and haven’t obtained a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree.
  • TEACH Grants: In order to receive this grant, applicants are required to agree to finishing a teaching service obligation. 
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG): This grant is given directly by the financial aid office at each participating college. It is important to note that not all colleges participate.
  • Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants: Students whose parent or guardian died during military service in Iraq or Afghanistan may be eligible for this grant.

State grants are also worth applying to, especially if you want to maximize your chance of receiving a full aid package. While grants on the state level can be more competitive (they usually require that you have a minimum GPA), there tends to be a greater pool of financial aid money for school available to those who apply on a local scale. Reach out to your state grant agency to learn more.

Additionally, grants don’t necessarily need to come out of federal money either. Nonprofit organizations, religious institutions, and charities can also provide monetary grants to students. If you’re wondering how to get money for college when you don’t qualify for federal or state grants, those are helpful places to start.

Tip: State grants typically require that you fill out an additional form to FAFSA, so make sure you do your research about how to apply so you can access the right grants. For example, in order to complete the process to apply for a Cal Grant you’d need to fill out the California Dream Act Application.

5. Official benefactors

Official benefactors can include the Military, Coast Guard, Air Force, AmeriCorps, Peace Corp, National Health Services Corps, and ROTC programs.

ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps)

Their programs prepare college students for the military once they’ve graduated. Over a thousand colleges offer this program, allowing students to pursue a university education without having to worry about tuition or room and board. You will be expected to complete military training and to commit to 12 years of service after graduation, however.

The Army, Air Force, and Navy

Each has their own programs with their special set of requirements and schools, while the US Coast Guard doesn’t offer the same ROTC initiative. Instead, they have a similar training program known as the College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative.

AmeriCorps and Peace Corps

If you plan to volunteer in exchange for education awards (whether it be domestically or internationally), then there’s always the AmeriCorps or Peace Corps. You’ll receive upwards of $5,000 for each year served in AmeriCorps and $8,000 for every two years in the Peace Corps, in addition to a monthly stipend to cover your cost of living.

Tip: There’s a fellowship program available to Peace Corps volunteers continuing with their upper education called the Paul D. Coverdell Fellows program.

6. Private student loans

Private student loans are often used to supplement any extra costs if your federal financial aid package doesn’t cover all college expenses. Private student loans are commonly issued by a bank or financial institution. Unlike federal student loans, eligibility for private student loans are determined by your credit score. When searching for the right private loan, look for a reputable lender and make sure the lender works with your college. 

Tip: Only borrow the amount of money that you think you can pay back later so that you’re not digging yourself deeper into student loan debt.

Get help paying for tuition

Everyone is entitled to an education. Unfortunately, a lot of people do not know how to afford college without applying for student loans. Now that you’re armed with this information on how to pay for college, you’ll be able to make the choice that’s best suited to you and your situation. Every day we see people successfully use college tuition fundraising to fund their educational dreams. Don’t forget that you can always lessen some of the financial strain by starting a fundraiser.

Thinking about grad school? Find out How to Pay for Grad School: Master’s Degree Funding.

Written by Brittany Chambers

I believe we all have the power to make a difference. Through informative and heartfelt content, I hope to create change and inspire others to give back to those who need it most.