Paying for School 101: Creative Ways to Fund Your Education

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Getting a college education is an investment that pays dividends for a lifetime. However, rising tuition costs make funding higher education a challenge. While student loans may seem inevitable, there are creative options to pay for school expenses beyond traditional loans. With some planning, resourcefulness, and imagination, you can avoid debt and graduate on solid financial ground.

Scholarships & Grants

Scholarships and grants should be your first stop when exploring funding options. These do not need to be repaid like loans, making them the most economical way to pay for college. Thousands of scholarships exist, offered by colleges themselves, private companies, nonprofits, religious groups, professional associations, and more. Awards range from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars.

Spend time researching potential scholarships you qualify for based on criteria like academics, sports, community service, artistic talent, ethnicity, field of study, hobbies, and more. Some have highly competitive applicant pools, but many others receive few applicants. Look beyond the most advertised options for better chances. Local scholarships in your community are also worth exploring.

Choose Affordable In-State Schools

The costs of a 4-year degree really add up. Students living on-campus at an in-state public university pay an average total cost of attendance of around $104,108 for four years according to recent stats. Opting for an out-of-state public school will cost over $108,000 total over four years. However, attending a private nonprofit university is by far the priciest path, with average 4-year costs reaching $223,360. With this type of investment on the line, choosing an affordable public university in your home state is crucial for limiting expenses.

Northern Michigan Global Campus is a good choice, as it offers the second most affordable tuition in the state of Michigan. The school provides distance-learning programs combining online coursework with faculty support, peer collaboration, and access to campus resources. Choosing reputable, in-state schools like this can add up to tens of thousands in savings compared to attending more expensive out-of-state institutions. There are even 100% online programs where you can save even more money on your education costs.

Employer Tuition Assistance

If you have a job, check whether your employer offers tuition reimbursement or tuition assistance programs. Many provide up to $5,250 per year tax-free for approved educational expenses with commitments to continue working part-time for the company for a defined period after graduation.

Work/Study Programs

Federal and state work/study programs provide part-time campus jobs for students with financial need, allowing you to earn money to directly pay for college expenses as you attend. This integrates an income stream to fund schooling around your classes and study schedule. Earnings don’t have to be repaid and typically don’t impact most scholarship packages.

Payment Plans

Rather than paying full tuition at the start of each semester, payment plans allow you to spread out payments over time. Nearly all colleges offer payment plans to break down costs into more manageable monthly installments interest-free. These won’t reduce overall expenses but are useful for budgeting tuition, fees, room and board over time rather than in two large lump sums each year.


Crowdfunding campaigns raise money from friends, family, and broader internet communities to fund education and other large expenses. The social-sharing nature of crowdfunding builds awareness and allows many small donations to accumulate into sizeable sums. Platforms like GoFundMe have helped students raise thousands in funding for college tuition, books, living expenses, and more.

While paying for higher education requires planning, discipline, and effort, available funding options make college possible even on limited budgets. With an enterprising mindset, a debt-free education lies within reach.

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