Realistic Ways to Pay for College

Are you getting ready to go back to school and finish your degree? Or will this be your first time to attend school? Regardless of which camp you’re in, the universal question arises: what’s the smartest way to pay for it all?

Every year, many prospective college students wonder whether they should apply for education loans, find a degree program that offers special discounts for future teachers, hunt down scholarships and grants, take on a work-study arrangement that covers some of the basic expenses, or even do a hitch in the military to take advantage of government-sponsored tuition offers?

There’s more than one way, as the old saying goes. Check the details about the following ways to cover school expenses and see which one is right for you.


By far, the most common way to pay for higher education is to take out a student loan. The market is competitive, money is available for most everyone, interest rates are reasonable, and repayment terms can be adjusted to fit most any budget. That’s actually the easy part. But one area where many students discover ambiguity is when it comes to spending the proceeds.

Step one is to read the official agreement and see what the exact rules are about how proceeds can be used. These guidelines are mostly based on common sense. For example, you never want to pay personal obligations like mortgages or rent with loan money. To make sure you’re following the rules correctly, go online and do some research about what student loan proceeds can be used for. That way, you’ll know all the ins and outs of fund usage and won’t run into any trouble with lenders.

Military Service

Current and former military members have access to several education funding resources. Check with your service branch education advisor or online sources to find out what you’re eligible for. Depending how long you served and which branch of the armed services you were in, you might be able to get a significant portion of your education costs paid for or reimbursed. In many cases, people on active duty can earn a college degree with minimal, and sometimes zero, expenses.


Many states offer special tuition reimbursement programs for future teachers. Most are set up to reimburse you or cover your loan payments after graduation and one or more years of in-classroom teaching experience. State governments discovered long ago that financial incentives are an effective way to bring competent people into the teaching profession.

Work-Study Programs

You will need to check with your school’s finance department if you want to learn how their work-study programs operate. Most let students put in between five and twenty hours of on-campus work per week. Instead of receiving a paycheck, the amount is deducted directly from your education expenses.

Grants and Scholarships

It never hurts to do a few hours of online research hunting down grants and scholarships. Remember to speak with the financial office of the school you’ll be attending too. Many scholarships of specifically connected to your major field of study. Plus, there are literally hundreds of grants you can apply for, no matter what your area of study is.