I don’t have a cosigner, how am I supposed to pay for school?
This is a surprisingly common question. College keeps getting more expensive, the dangers of student debt are well known, and consigning is a huge commitment.
Sadly, this leaves many people desperate to go to school, but unable to meet increasing tuition bills.
Make Sure You Exhaust Preferred Funding Options First
Before we start discussing some of your options if you can’t find a student loan, it is important that everyone is on the same page. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Have you completed their FAFSA and requested the maximum amount of aid and work-study?
- Have you applied for every scholarship they can possibly apply for?
- Have you applied for many student loans and actually been denied?
- Are you unable to find someone willing to cosign your student loans?
The following suggestions only apply to people who answered YES to every single one of the previous questions.
Talk to your financial aid office
You may be desperate, but your school could feel the same way.
If you tell your financial aid office that you are considering leaving school because you can no longer afford your studies, they will have a huge incentive to help you find a way to stay around. From the perspective of your school, they may be willing to only charge half-tuition if they know it is the only way you will be able to afford the bill. Contacting your financial aid office could lead to finding grants and scholarships that you didn’t even know existed.
One word of caution: Be careful about student loans that your financial aid office provides for you, especially if you are enrolled at a for-profit school. There have been numerous reports of students taking out these loans when the school knew the student had almost no chance at ever repaying the debt. Not being able to get student loans sucks. Getting student loans you can’t afford is even worse.
Can you only afford part of your tuition?
One option might be to just cut back on your class load. Going in this direction can help in two ways. The obvious one is that it lowers your tuition bill. The less obvious one is that it frees up time for you to make some extra money. Most people will tell you that an extra year or two of being in college is not the worst thing in the world.
One thing to keep in mind if you are considering this route is your housing. If you have expensive housing and need to borrow money to foot the bill, extending your time in college could be a financial misstep. Make sure you do the math to verify that you can afford to finish things out on a part-time schedule. Like it or not, living at home makes this route much more feasible.
Find a job with tuition benefits
One of the perks that many schools offer their full-time employees is free or reduced tuition.
If you can find a position that has this benefit, you can switch to a part-time schedule and have your classes paid for… while you are earning money.
These jobs are not easy to find, but it is definitely worth the time and effort if you can make this happen for yourself.
Take a year off of school
This is an option that most people don’t like. It delays life plans. It could be hard on your social life and/or relationship. It certainly isn’t anybody’s plan A.
However, it has major advantages. Being away from school is an opportunity to earn money and save for next year. It also is a great chance to get some real-world work experience and build connections that could make a difference in your career.
Some people fear that time away from school shows a lack of dedication or drive. I’d argue that it shows just the opposite. If you are in school and fall short of the necessary funds, nobody can blame you. However, if you put in the work to overcome the obstacles and return to school instead of giving up, it shows a drive and focus that many people lack.
Consider transferring schools
If your school is absurdly expensive, or even if you are presently enrolled in a reasonably priced state school, there are less expensive options available.
Changing schools can be a headache, and it may delay your graduation a bit. However, if changing schools allows you to get a degree… you are miles ahead of where you would be if you just went broke and dropped out.
Forgoing a fancy degree may seem like a huge letdown, but most people find that the place they went to school hardly matters when they enter the workforce. With each passing job, the place you went to school matters less and less. The degree you have may show the knowledge you possess, but 5 years of actual experience will go much further towards useful knowledge and getting your next job.
A final thought
It may seem like not being able to get student loans is a terrible thing.
Talk to someone really struggling with student debt, and you will see that worse things could happen. If you have had a setback in paying for your education, remind yourself that it could be for the best, and adjust your plans accordingly.