Figuring out how to fund your education may feel more frustrating than earning the degree itself.
There’s no doubt that higher education can be a considerable investment, but money doesn’t have to be a barrier to the future of your dreams. There are ways to invest in your education without wrecking your wallet.
Here are 10 financial tips for earning a college education you can afford.
Tip #1: Know the Basics About Financial Aid.
Financial aid can be need-based or merit-based. There are four major types of financial aid:
- Federal work-study is awarded based on need. Work-study provides undergraduate and graduate students with opportunities to work and earn money as they work towards their degree. Work-study jobs can be on or off campus (or even remote!).
- Grants are awarded to students based on merit or need. There are several types of grants, and they are typically issued based on an individual’s ability to fulfill a public need. Grants do not need to be repaid.
- Loans can be issued federally, by your state, or by a bank or private lender. Unlike grants, work-study, and scholarships, loans will need to be repaid.
- Scholarships are merit or need-based financial awards. They do not need to be repaid.
Tip #2: Seek Out Scholarships.
The biggest piece of financial advice we offer our students? Seek out scholarships! When you receive a scholarship, you’re awarded money for your education. Unlike the money funding student loans, scholarship money does not need to be repaid by the recipient.
Many colleges and universities offer internal scholarships that are exclusive to their students. Here at Goodwin, internal scholarships are offered three times per year (or once per semester). However, most adult learners also apply for external scholarships. External scholarships are not funded by the government or the school you’re attending. Rather, they’re funded by private organizations, businesses, or entities. There are plenty of ways to research, explore, and apply for external scholarships. Websites such as collegeboard.org and fastweb.com provide users with a free and easy way to discover the scholarship opportunities that are available to them.
Tip #3: Take Advantage of Inceptia.
Inceptia is a convenient and user-friendly budgeting and financial-planning tool. Better yet, Inceptia is free for Goodwin students, so you can learn how to secure your financial future without spending an extra dime.
The program’s goal is to provide students with the financial knowledge and skills that will help them succeed with their personal finances. It consists of 10 self-paced modules that cover topics ranging from budgeting to credit scores and identity protection. Learn more about what Inceptia has to offer Goodwin students.
Tip #4: Apply On-Time.
Whether you’re submitting your FAFSA or applying for a scholarship, time is of the essence. By applying on time (or better yet, early,) you position yourself to receive a better financial aid package.
This is especially true when applying for federal aid. Some states have limited government funding for loans, grants, and scholarships — consequently, early applicants are likely to receive the most substantial financial aid packages. Use this to your benefit and submit your aid applications well before their due.
Tip #5: Improve Your Loan Literacy.
Loans can be more than complicated — they can be downright stressful. For one thing, there are multiple types of loans. Moreover, they can be federal or private, and repayment plans can vary widely based on which loan you choose.
Before you sign off on any student loan, make sure that you’ve read and understood the terms of your repayment. After all, you don’t want to be surprised by your interest rates or fixed payment amount down the road!
It’s also worth noting that federal loans have an aggregate limit. This means that there is a maximum amount of federal money you can borrow towards your degree.
Tip #6: Check Your Status.
No, we’re not talking social media — we’re referring to your dependency status.
When you apply for federal aid, you will have to declare your status as a student: dependent or independent. Most undergraduates are considered dependent students, which means that their need for aid is calculated based on the income of their parents or guardians.
To be considered an independent student, you must meet any one of the following requirements:
- Be a graduate student
- Be at least 24 years old
- Be in the military
- Be married
- Have a child or dependent
Your aggregate loan limit will be based on your dependency status. Whereas a dependent student working towards an undergraduate degree is limited to $31,000 in federal aid, an independent student can borrow up to $57,500 toward a single undergraduate degree.
Tip #7: Earn as You Learn.
Not everybody can maintain a job while they earn their education. Afterall, it can be incredibly challenging to balance school, personal obligations, and a job or career.
However, if you’re able to earn an income on the trek toward your degree, it will surely pay off in the future. Earning money while you’re in school allows you to manage your personal expenses, gain work experience, and maybe even build up some savings!
Tip #8: Begin with Budgeting.
Why wait until you graduate to begin budgeting? If you haven’t already, we recommend sticking to a budget as you earn your degree.
“Budgeting” isn’t just a word that we all wish didn’t exist. Put simply, budgeting is a life-saving process for organizing your funds and securing your financial future. Effective budgeting helps ensure that you can manage and pay your expenses — and hopefully save some money along the way, too!
You don’t need to be a mathematical whizz to budget correctly. These days, you don’t even need a pen and paper. There are plenty of free online tools and apps that can be used to track and manage your finances. Many people choose to use Google Sheets or Mint.
Tip #9: Know Your Resources.
Opportunities for more specialized financial aid may be available to you, including a few listed below:
If you are a SNAP recipient, you may be eligible for free college courses. In Connecticut, community colleges and community-based organizations allow qualifying SNAP recipients to enroll in select vocational programs for free.
VA Education and Training Benefits
If you are a veteran, you may be eligible for VA Education and Training Benefits. These benefits can help fund higher education for both veterans and their dependents.
Tip #10: Consult with a Counselor.
You don’t have to figure it all out on your own. Most colleges and universities have financial aid officers and counselors who are ready to lend you their expertise! Here at Goodwin, you can consult with our Financial Aid team to learn more about funding your education.
Earn an Affordable Education at Goodwin.
Goodwin University is dedicated to making your higher education accessible and affordable. 85%* of our students receive funding in the form of grants or scholarships. Our Financial Aid department will work with you to determine the aid package that’s right for you. Better still, our career-focused degree and certificate programs will prepare you with marketable skills and training — helping you find secure and stable employment post-graduation.
Learn more about achieving your goals the Goodwin way or call 800-889-3282.
*Based on fall 2021 data