Ways to Pay

Discover Your Strategies > The Rules for Independent Students

There are five basic sources for college financial assistance:

  • Scholarships and Financial Aid
  • Student Loans
  • Work Study
  • Military
  • Employer Tuition Assistance

Scholarships and Financial Aid

There are many resources on the web designed to help students find financial assistance for college. One site in particular, FinAid.org, is especially comprehensive and describes in detail a student’s options and offers dozens of calculators and customized charts. The College Board’s website also features a helpful Financial Aid EasyPlanner.

Financial aid can come from the Federal government, from state government, from private sources, and from the college or university. Criteria for acceptance can be based on financial need, academic performance, athletics, volunteering and community service, status as a minority or disabled, or any number of other scholarships based on various student profiles.

For financial aid and student loans, the best place for a student to start determining their ability to qualify is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This tool will let you know if you qualify for the Pell Grant, Perkins Loan, Stafford Loan, and Federal Work Study Program. Many private colleges and universities will also require the CSS PROFILE which helps determine a student’s qualifications for grants, loans and scholarships available through that particular college.

For scholarships, the College Board website has a Scholarship Search feature and FastWeb.com includes a tool to help match students with scholarships and internships. The College Solution Blog also has some good ideas for maximizing student aid.

Student Loans

To begin the process for determining whether you would qualify for Federal student loans, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will need to be completed. This is the starting point to discover whether the loans will be subsidized or not, and how much can be borrowed from each of the programs per year and in total. In addition to the Perkins and Stafford Loans for students, parents might be able to borrow using the PLUS Loan program. Private student loans can also be explored through banks and possibly some foundations, state agencies or through the college itself.

A student should always be careful when borrowing large amounts of money and the College Board has a Student Loan Calculator for comparing loan obligations to a student’s projected starting salary.

Work Study

The Federal government sponsors a formal College Work-Study Program for those with financial need. As is the case with the other Federal programs, participation is determined through the completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Financial aid is earned through the student’s part-time employment.

There are also other ways for a student to earn some of their college costs. Many colleges will hire students to work on their campuses. Student internships may be available in various college departments or through local employers and many students will simply find part-time jobs on their own. Any of these approaches will help defray some of the costs and reduce the need for loans.


Military personnel are eligible for several education benefits. Details can be found on Military.com.

Employer Tuition Assistance

Many employers offer tuition assistance for their employees. Employers offer these benefits to students because it improves their employee recruitment, retention and gives them a more educated workforce. Students may want to consider working for a company with education benefits so they can take advantage of their employer’s willingness to help them with college costs.

Employee educational benefits vary greatly. Some employers might simply offer a “release time allowance”, which is the commitment to work around an employee’s college schedule, while others offer financial reimbursements of at least a portion of tuition and fees. It is also common for an employer to require a certain length of service before the benefits begin, with six months being common. They might also require employees to remain in good standing, earn a C or better, and commit to an employment time frame following the course. Students can receive up to $5,250 per year free of taxes.

Below is a small, representative sample of companies that have offered tuition reimbursement programs:

  • Wal-Mart
  • Disney
  • U.P.S.
  • McDonalds
  • Bank of America
  • Sherwin Williams
  • Met Life
  • Starbucks
  • Chick-Fil-A
  • FedEx Office
  • Google
  • Wells Fargo
  • Boeing
  • Staples
  • Best Buy
  • Target
  • Home Depot
  • Pfizer
  • Ann Taylor
  • Regions Bank
  • Yahoo




© 2011 LowCostCollegePlanner