If you are thinking about going to college in an era of low wages, you may feel like you are entering into a Faustian bargain. On one hand, you will be able to satisfy your craving for knowledge, and you may open up doors of career opportunity. On the other hand, the price to open those doors is so steep that it may close others.
With more than $1 trillion in total student loan debts outstanding, many graduates end up feeling like they lost their bargain. It isn’t uncommon now for students to graduate as doctors and lawyers and still struggle to pay their rent.
Don’t want to fall back on FAFSA to finance your education? The U.S. Department of Education does recognize the school funding crisis, and is implementing some strategies for alternative funding. But those programs cannot help everyone. Thankfully, there are some other options.
Scholarships are still a great option for financing your education, just as they were ten or twenty years ago. You may feel intimidated when you look through lists of hundreds of scholarships only to realize that each one probably has hundreds of applicants.
What can you do about it?
Get as specific with your search as possible. Stick with niche scholarships for studying specialized subjects, or consider scholarships which require a commitment that not everyone is willing to make.
Think about local scholarships too.
By definition, only local students can apply for them, so you don’t need to worry about nationwide competition.
Another option is to search for a low-interest personal loan. This may seem counterintuitive. Why try to apply for a personal loan when you could just go through FAFSA? The problem is that student loans are notoriously hard to manage, and the collections process can be aggressive when your bills come due.
For this reason, you may actually find a personal loan offers you a friendlier alternative. Just be sure to look for the best personal loan rates.
While some students may qualify for a low-interest personal loan, not everyone does. An older student may have enough credit to qualify, but if you are just getting started in life, you may have little or no credit history.
If this is the case, you may want to consider peer-to-peer lending. You may find people who are willing to loan you money despite the fact that you would not qualify for a traditional loan. Plus, you can often find useful lending options like repayment deferment which offer you additional flexibility.
On top of all that, the process is often friendlier and more personal, and that can make your life a lot less stressful going forward.
While you probably cannot entirely finance your education through a part-time job, you can certainly reduce the amount of money you will owe. Juggling a job and an education is not easy, but there are some choices you can make that might make it possible.
For example, do you really need a four-year degree, or could you get away with a two-year associate’s degree or even just some vocational training?
Have you thought about picking a job where a company might be willing to finance your education in return for years of work later (this is common in the medical industry)?
On that note, the military still presents a viable option for those who are open to regimental life. The military will not only finance your education, but will place you with work afterwards. This is actually a great benefit in an economy which still has a lot of instability.
Joining the military can set you up with a long-term career and a support network of friends and colleagues who you can rely on.
Even though college is more expensive than ever, there are still ways you can finance your education without leaning on student loans. Shop around for personal loans and think carefully through all of your options. Don’t make any snap decisions; wait until you figure out a concrete plan which will lead to a stable financial future.