Hopefully, you have an idea of what your next step will be after high school graduation. And if you plan to attend a university, community college, or trade school, you might need some help paying for it.
Continuing education costs can range from a few thousand dollars up to a six-figure price tag for the most elite institutions. But if you and your family can’t pay for those expenses out of pocket, you have plenty of alternative funding sources to consider.
5 ways to fund your education and training
Once you’ve figured out your career goals, it’s time to figure out how to accomplish them — and part of that will probably include college or other training. Here are some ways you might be able to pay for your continuing education.
Scholarships and grants
To pay for your education, scholarships and grants are a good place to start. These represent free money for your school or training, which does not have to be repaid. You can find scholarships and grants in many places, including the state or federal government, local businesses and organizations, or your school itself.
Each scholarship or grant comes with its own eligibility requirements and program rules. Some might be need-based, which would require you to show proof that you’re unable to afford an education on your own. Others may be merit-based and offered to you based on your grades, special skills, or community service work.
These awards can typically be combined, so you can apply to many scholarships and grants to help cover your expenses.
You can borrow money in the form of student loans to pay for your education. Federal student loans are offered by the federal government and come with fair interest rates, flexible repayment plans, and easy approval. Private student loans, on the other hand, are offered by private financial institutions, which set their own interest rates and qualification requirements. For most people, federal student loans usually offer the best deal.
Loans can be used to pay for a four-year college degree, an Associate’s degree, or even an accredited trade school. But read the fine print: Not every school accepts every type of student loan, so talk about your options with the school’s financial aid office.
Loans must be repaid (with interest), but most borrowers wait until after graduation to start repayment.
Income share agreements
An income share agreement (ISA) is a contract that allows you to borrow money now for your education or training. In exchange, you’re expected to pay a percentage of your salary to the lender once you start working. While the exact specifications will vary based on the program, the contract should outline how much of your salary you’re expected to pay each month, how long you’ll be in repayment, the minimum salary you must earn before repayment starts, and the maximum amount you’ll have to repay over the life of the agreement.
ISAs are unique because you’re not repaying a specific amount of money — you could pay more or less than the amount you actually borrowed, depending on your earnings after you graduate. Those who earn a high salary will pay back more than someone who earns less.
ISAs are most commonly offered by specific schools, though there are some private lenders who offer them as well.
Be flexible about where you attend school
If your education costs are just too high, consider ways to reduce them. For example, if your future career requires a Bachelor’s degree, you can earn cheaper credits at a community college before transferring to a four-year university later. You might even consider attending a work college. These schools require students to work while in attendance, either on- or off-campus, in exchange for reduced tuition. That means you could graduate with a lot less debt than a traditional school.
Get an employer to pay for it
Some employers will help you pay for an education, even if you only work part-time. Major companies such as Walmart, Home Depot, and Starbucks all have tuition reimbursement programs that can be used to pay for school. Each employer sets its own rules for these programs; some may require employees to attend specific schools to be eligible, while others may only reimburse tuition in certain areas of study. But if you can find a part-time job that helps you accomplish your long-term career goals, it could be well worth it.
Getting accepted into a college or training program is only the first step — now you have to figure out how to pay for it. Thankfully, there are many different options when it comes to finding funding for your education.
It’s common to use money from more than one source to pay for school, so don’t be afraid to mix-and-match the strategies you use to pay for school. You might use a combination of scholarships, loans, and other programs to reduce the total amount you pay for your training.