Financing Your Degree

Getting an education is one of the best ways to improve your chances of landing a great job. Employers these days are looking not only for job skills, but also for relevant education that ensures that you are up to date on the latest techniques that will make you knowledgeable and effective in the workplace. However, not everyone can afford to go out and pay tens of thousands of dollars per year to pay tuition and related fees for getting a degree. This is where financial aid comes into the picture.

The federal government is the main source of financial aid for undergraduate degrees. It offers the popular Pell Grant, which provides up to $5,550 per year that you can use for your tuition, books, housing, food, or other related costs. To apply for the Pell Grant, you must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which asks many questions about your household's income and assets. The government provides Pell Grants to students who have the fewest resources available to pay for college.

You can also take out low-interest student loans through the federal government for undergraduate or graduate degrees. Stafford loans provide up to $7,500 per year for undergraduate students and up to $20,500 per year for graduate students, repayable at 6.8 percent interest on a variety of flexible repayment plans. Graduate students also have access to federal PLUS loans, which provide up to the full cost of education at 7.9 percent interest. Therefore, as long as you are willing to repay your debt, there is no excuse for not getting a degree.

State governments also sometimes provide financial aid. Some states have grants that help high-achieving students finance an undergraduate degree or provide aid for students enrolling in programs for which the state has shortages, such as teachers or nurses. In most cases, filling out the FAFSA will enter you for financial aid from the state as well.

Many schools also provide financial aid to accepted students. When you fill out the FAFSA, the federal government sends the information to your school's financial aid office, which will then consider giving you additional financial aid with the school's resources. Many prestigious private schools provide enough grants to meet all financial need, which is the difference between what you can afford to pay and the remaining cost of attendance after considering all other types of financial aid.

You can also contact your school's financial aid office and ask if it offers any scholarships you can apply for. Some scholarships require you to be studying a particular subject or have a strong academic record. Others base the award on your extracurricular activities or an essay you submit. The work you put into applying for scholarships can pay off significantly if you get awards.

Another major way to pay for your education is using your own resources. Before enrolling in school, spend some time working and saving your money to help pay your tuition and living expenses while you study. Many students also continue to work part-time while they are in school, which can cover food, housing, and books, allowing students to use grants, scholarships, and borrowed funds to pay the tuition.

If you are working and want to return to school for continuing education, one last option is to ask your employer about tuition reimbursement programs. Many employers offer to help you earn your degree because it makes you a more valuable asset for the company. Plus, you get the added benefit of another degree to give you an edge for your next promotion opportunity.