If you are working towards your degree part-time, you are likely used to having multiple irons in the fire. Whether you are juggling a job, family responsibilities, or other obligations, paying for the cost of school is another task to add to your list.
Even if you’re attending on a part-time basis, there are still ways to potentially get a scholarship, grant, and work study programs that can help supplement the cost of school.
Here’s a closer look at how to pay for college as a part-time student.
Ways to Apply For Free Money
When it comes to paying for school, consider tapping into free money sources first. It’s money that you don’t have to pay back. With that, scholarships earn a spot at the top of this list.
There are several types of scholarships to consider. Some are merit-based, which often means maintaining top-notch grades or excelling at a particular sport or skill. Other scholarships are based on your degree, income, location, or demographic.
You can start your search for a scholarship by asking around in your local community, reaching out to your school’s financial aid office, and using the scholarship search tool sponsored by the Department of Labor.
Grants are another source of funding that you won’t have to pay back. Typically, grants are need-based or related to your particular background.
In order to find grants, the first step is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form may also qualify you for federal student loans, which you will have to pay back.
When your FAFSA is submitted, you’ll find out if you are eligible for grants. A few of the federal grant opportunities include Federal Pell grants, Academic Competitiveness grants, Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity grants (FSEOG), TEACH grants, Iraq and Afghanistan Service grants, and SMART grants.
But you may also find grants at the state level. Plus, some grants are designed for your unique background.
Part-Time Work and Side Hustles
Work Study Programs
The federal work-study program is designed to help students obtain part-time jobs on campus. Although the exact amount you can earn varies, you’ll likely earn somewhere between $2,000 and $5,000 per year.
The advantage of a work-study program is that the jobs tend to be on campus. Additionally, these jobs tend to be relatively low-stress so you can concentrate on your studies.
Work-study jobs aren’t your only option for bringing in an income while in school.
A few of the most readily available options include waiting tables, cleaning houses, and working for a catering company on the weekends. But the list of job opportunities doesn’t stop there. You’ll find countless options to make money while going to school part-time.
Based on a recent College Investor survey, we discovered 55% of respondents are side hustling for extra money. Here are the most popular ways people are earning some cash:
- 38%: Doing online surveys (Survey Junkie, Swagbucks)
- 17%: Delivery (DoorDash, Instacart):
- 14%: Freelance (self-employed, Upwork, Fiverr)
- 10%: Selling stuff (eBay, Poshmark)
- 7%: Driving for rideshare: (Uber/Lyft)
- 7%: In-person work at a physical store/retail
If you are looking for a flexible income stream, you might try freelance writing, tutoring, or babysitting. For students that want to work on building a business while in school, consider starting a blog, creating an app, or designing t-shirts.
If you are on the hunt for other income-earning opportunities for your college years, check out this list of 100 real ways to earn money while in school.
Employer-Sponsored Tuition Reimbursement Programs
If you are planning on working while in school, you might want to go to work with an employer that offers a tuition reimbursement program. Many employers offer an opportunity to pay for some of your education while you work your way through school.
At the moment, employers can provide up to $5,250 in tax-free tuition assistance. A few of the companies that offer tuition assistance include Amazon, Apple, Chick-Fil-A, Chipotle, FedEx, Publix, Starbucks, and more.
The exact details of each employer’s program will vary. But in many cases, you’ll need to work for the company for several months before you are eligible for the program. If you are signing up for a job with tuition reimbursement in mind, scope out the details upfront.
Although no one is thrilled with the idea of coming out of college with a mountain of debt, student loans are an option for some part-time students. Typically, you’ll need to be enrolled at least half-time to take out federal student loans.
If you meet the course load requirements, taking out student loans can help you pay for your education. But since student loans can have a lasting impact on your financial situation, it’s important to choose wisely.
If eligible for federal loans, try to stick with Direct Subsidized student loans. This type of loan doesn’t charge interest on the loan while you are in school or during a grace period after graduation. Other federal loan options include Direct Unsubsidized loans and Direct PLUS loans, both of which allow interest to accumulate while you are in school.
In addition to federal student loans, private student loans are an option. As a student, private student loans can help you cover education costs. But like federal student loans, these will need to be repaid. In most cases, the interest rates attached to private student loans are higher than those attached to federal student loans.
Pick An Approach That Works For You
When it comes to paying for college, there is no single way that is better than the others. And the reality is that most part-time students will cobble together multiple funding sources to cover their education costs.
If you don’t want to be stuck with a lot of debt, try to avoid taking on student loan debt. Loans aren’t always a bad thing. In some cases it offers the most efficient way to get through school. Before signing up for student loans, check out the expected ROI of your degree to make sure you’ll be able to pay it back without hamstringing your post-graduation financial situation indefinitely.
With a little bit of creativity, you might even be able to avoid student loans while furthering your education.
Which funding sources will you explore to pay for your part-time college costs?
Sarah Sharkey is a personal finance writer covering credit cards, mortgages and student loans. She has written for numerous finance publications, including MagnifyMoney, Business Insider and ChooseFI. Her blog, Adventurous Adulting, helps young adults get a handle on their finances.
Editor: Claire Tak Reviewed by: Robert Farrington