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Last-Resort Options for Cash-Strapped College Students

Oct 23, 2008 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

Trying to pay for college this year? Good luck.  Many adult students and parents of students are having difficulty in today’s troubled economy.  It’s partially a result of weakened economic conditions—many people are out of jobs, taking pay cuts, and watching their retirement savings dwindle.  It’s also partially a result of the mortgage meltdown and the resulting tightening of restrictions for all loans—including educational loans.  It’s just tougher to get a loan this year.  But there are options for parents and students who need the cash—and here are just a few.

Keep negotiating with your college

Students are much more cost conscious today than they were in the past—and many students switch colleges to save money. If you’ve been accepted at a distance learning college but still don’t have the financial aid to pay for it, let them know you’re thinking of switching purely for financial reasons.  Schools are under plenty of pressure to fill classroom seats, and they may be able to dig up some last-minute aid for those who need it.

See Also: Online College Reviews

Contest your student aid package

If you’ve received a student aid offer from your college that isn’t going to work for your budget, you have options.  Write a letter to your office asking for a professional judgment review.  If your family’s situation has changed since you first applied for financial aid, your school may be willing to overhaul your entire package.


A Rutgers Tuition Bill with Student Loans Added
How expensive is college really? An example of a Rutgers college tuition bill with financial aid assistance helping to pay for college.


Fill out the FAFSA if you haven’t already

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is the only way you can get government grants and loans, most of which have much better interest rates and payment terms than you’ll find with a private lender.  Some parents and students don’t fill it out at first because they’ve missed the deadline or they’re sure they won’t qualify.  But you never know unless you fill it out, and while most colleges set a spring deadline for having it in, your college may be able to bend the rules for you.

Seek outside help

Scholarships are available for students who need them. While your school may be able to offer you some grant money, it probably isn’t telling you about every grant opportunity out there. Go online to websites like and to look for opportunities you’ve missed before. This is free money, and these sites are worth going over with a fine-toothed comb.

Get help from your financial aid office

In conjunction with your own efforts, bring your school’s financial aid office into the mix.  Sign up for government loans only after you’ve exhausted your potential for grants and scholarships, and take out a private loan only after maximizing your Plus, Stafford and other federal loans.  Make sure you know your maximums under federal loans—in the past, some colleges have not offered parents the most federal money possible, favoring private loans that delivered kickbacks to the colleges instead.

Get on the plan

Many colleges offer monthly payment plans that give families a better option than the usual lump-sum payment at the start of the term.  Check with your college to see if they can help you by extending payment for tuition over the year instead of expecting larger payments more infrequently.

If you interested in learning about how to pay for college check out these other articles on paying for college. One way to reduce costs is to learn how compare the cost of college tuition between online colleges, you can also join the military to get tuition assistance, learn eight ways to reduce college debt while in college, or think about whether that college degree is worth the money.




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