Let others invest in your college degree

Provided by Columbia College

So you’ve decided to join the thousands of adults returning to college. Maybe you want to be more competitive for the next internal promotion. Or, perhaps you’re looking for a career change altogether. Whatever the reason, earning a college degree has been proven to be a good investment. Educational attainment often equates to higher wages and lower unemployment, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

But education is just that—an investment. Earning a degree requires you to commit time, effort and resources. Which may leave you asking, “How do I pay for college?”

Good news. There are entities that feel so strongly about the importance of your education, they’re willing to help pay for it. The government, employers, colleges and organizations all provide financial aid—money set aside to cover educational expenses. And unlike student loans, you don’t have to repay some types of aid. Here are a few examples.

Federal Grants
The federal government offers several types of financial aid to help people pay for college.
Pell Grants are the most popular. They’re distributed based on your financial need and unique circumstances. Amounts of the grants vary based on your situation. Students who have significant financial need might also be eligible to receive a Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant. Want to know whether you qualify? Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid at FAFSA.gov.

Employer Partnerships, Discounts
Some employers provide scholarships or other types of aid to encourage their employees to continue their education. They know that higher education has been proven to increase skill level and productivity. Membership organizations might also partner with colleges to provide tuition discounts to their members.

Your ethnic make-up, geographic background, financial need and family situation could all qualify you for private scholarship funds. Organizations and businesses offer private scholarships for a myriad of characteristics. Like grants, these dollars do not have to be repaid. Left handed? Yep, there’s a scholarship for that.

Transfer Credit, Experience
Don’t let any previous college coursework go to waste. Transfer as many credits as possible toward your new degree path in order to save time and money. Some colleges even allow you to count your work experience toward college credit.

Consider All Costs
When comparing colleges, be sure to consider the entire cost—not just the sticker price. With financial aid, scholarships and discounts, you could pay significantly less than the advertised tuition price. However, watch out for hidden costs. A lot of colleges will add on fees for services such as technology support. Be sure to understand and plan for college fees, if applicable, when budgeting the true cost of attendance.

Make a Budget
Making a budget doesn’t have to mean pinching pennies, clipping coupons or going without necessities. It simply means you’re keeping track of your finances, making sure your expenses don’t exceed what you’re taking in. If you do find yourself short, make simple changes such as packing a lunch instead of going out to eat. Fill a bottle with water instead of buying bottled water. Skip the coffee shop and brew a mug at home. Small adjustments can turn in to big savings.

So plan to invest time and energy into that college degree. But with financial aid, credit for what you already know and a little planning in advance, paying for college doesn’t have to be a sacrifice.

About Columbia College
Columbia College offers more than 40 degree programs, including programs that are offered entirely online. With TruitionSM, adult learners can expect education at one low price. No fees. No book costs. No surprises. Learn more at CCIS.edu.