Tuesday, March 5, 2024

How to Pay for School When You Are Broke


Part of the American Dream is owning a home and being a college graduate. College tuition and student loan debt continue to increase, leaving many wondering how to pay for school. For many, a college education is out of reach.

Type of College Average Published Yearly Tuition and Fees
Public Two-Year College (in-state students) $3,440
Public Four-Year College (in-state students) $9,410
Public Four-Year College (out-of-state students) $23,890
Private Four-Year College $32,410

These numbers are based on published tuition costs, not what students actually end up paying out of their own pockets. There can be a big difference between those two numbers, thanks to financial aid.


In many low-income households, all working age family members must contribute. This can prolong the cycle of poverty that may last for generations. Luckily, the government has set up help for college tuition that does not need to be repaid.

The tricky part about college is it is an all or nothing situation. In order to reap the benefits of having a degree, you must finish all requirements. If funds run out, there is a significant issue.

Pell Grants

The Pell Grant is designed to be a need-based form of financial aid from the federal government. What makes this grant so in-demand is that it does not need to be repaid.

The Department of Education awards Pell Grants to low-income students for tuition, fees, books and supplies. The grant can also cover transportation and personal expenses, as well as room and board. Some students may have the cost of daycare covered so they may attend classes without worry.

A Pell Grant is how to pay for school without sacrificing too much. In recent years, the number of grants awarded has been rapidly increasing. However, tuition is also increasing.

Decide if a private or public university best serves your current needs and future goals.

Berea College

The best education money can’t buy may be from Berea College in Kentucky. The higher education institution has zero frills and a $1.1 billion endowment that has allowed students to graduate debt-free since 1892. Every student has to work 10 hours a week at their campus job.

There are seven centers of academic, career and social support. According to the college’s website, “Most of our students score between 20 and 30 on the ACT (or SAT equivalent) and have a cumulative high school GPA of at least 3.0 in a strong college prep curriculum.”

Every student must submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Students can study abroad and have funded internships.

Work-Study Programs

Not every school accepts Pell Grants. Students who receive them must attend classes at a two- or four-year college that does.

The maximum Pell Grant award for 2019-2020 is $6,195 and the minimum is $650. The maximum expected family contribution (EFC) a student can have and still qualify for a Pell Grant award is $5,576, according to ____. However, a Pell Grant is only part of the financial picture.

Students may also have to apply for student loans. Another option is to apply for federal work study, which is how many students pay for school while also potentially working in their field of study. Half a million students apply every year. The federal program subsidizes up to 75 percent of student wages.

To qualify, students must apply through FAFSA. Students do not always have to work on campus. Schools can also partner with nonprofits, public agencies and other employers.

Many universities are using work-study positions to help out the community, such as literacy teachers. The paychecks students receive, however, do not automatically apply to tuition and positions are not always guaranteed.

Some students have to find their own work to receive work-study financial aid.

Student loans

Borrowing money is a guaranteed option to pay for college. Getting into debt now to get out of debt in the future might seem counterintuitive. However, you always have to spend money to make money.

There are a multitude of websites to research when it comes to finding the right student loan for you from the federal government and top private student lenders. Anyone can apply for a student loan and receive money in one way or another.

The hardest aspect of applying for student loans is ensuring that you are getting a solid interest rate. The majority of all types of loans have their interest front-loaded so the bank gets their payment first.

It may be tempting to think of student loans as free money. Once the payback period starts, you must make payments. Borrowing too much will not give you the freedom you want in your career. You do not want to have to take jobs solely for the purpose of paying back your loans.


Scholarships may seem out of reach if you or your child have not considered them before application deadlines. While excellent grades are the first thing that comes to mind when talking about scholarships and how to pay for school, you can also earn them for sports, extracurricular participation and other stand-out points.

There is even one worth $500 that only requires applicants to have red hair.

Begin your search online by typing in keywords. One of the best websites to help you in your scholarship search is www.scholarships.com. There are more than 3.7 million scholarships and grants awaiting you.


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