Getting admitted to college is one thing. Finding ways to pay your college tuition bill is another. Very simply speaking, loans cost you in the long run, so it just makes good sense to exhaust all other sources of financial support before going the loan route. Start with scholarships and grants for college tuition. While they may come with restrictions, millions of dollars are available for any number of reasons.
The scholarship search available through the College Planning Center of Rhode Island is specially equipped to aid students from Rhode Island. You will find scholarship aid for students of animal science, from the Shriners of Rhode Island Trust, for students of certain ethnic origins, and in memory of deceased individuals.
Hundreds of other online search engines will identify millions of scholarship options. CollegeBoard.com is one of the oldest and places high expectations on the scholarships it lists. There are tens of thousands of scholarships out there, some offered by churches, fraternal organizations, professional membership organizations, and more. Download the College Planning Center's List of recommended scholarship sites.
Grants for all or part of your college tuition are free money. There are made available by federal and state programs as well as other sources. They are usually attached to eligibility requirements and restrictions.
Federally sponsored Pell Grants are the most common of support with students who demonstrate financial need. If you completed the FAFSA and qualified, a Pell grant would be included in your financial aid award letter.
The Federal TEACH program supports students who are pursuing studies in areas determined to be critical needs. Critical needs grants can be given on top of the Pell Grant and may need to be paid back as a loan if you don't meet their requirements after graduation. If you are planning to pursue a career in teaching, contact your college financial aid office about this grant opportunity and learn more here.
Diabilities & Illnesses
Students who have suffered disabling illness or have special needs are eligible for grants from non-profit organizations service the specific disability, such as National Association of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Hereditary Disease Foundation, American Cancer Society, and more so check out these sources if you fall into one of these categories.
Students who have served in the military or the children of parents who served may be eligible for grants through the G.I. Bill or through veterans' organizations.
Religious groups often sponsor students in their congregations. Larger grants may be available through national church organizations like the National Baptist Convention or the Missouri Lutheran Synod.
Athletes compete for scholarships that may be attached to additional grants. But, this is also true for accomplished musicians, artists, videographers, performing artists, and other talents. Such grants are offered by state and local governments, women's organizations, journalism associations, music organizations, colleges, and the like.
Some students have a passion for what may be seen as special studies. And, there are grants to fund these studies in female issues, African studies, Native American archeology, or Pacific Island paleontology. These grants are usually funded by private parties or related organizations.
Some businesses provide grants (and internships) to students to feed their talent pipeline. Business sectors like finance and investment, agriculture, fabrics, oil, and insurance all provide student grants.
How grants & scholarships work
Grants for college tuition pay your bills without adding to your financial burden. There is no debt to accumulate and no interest charged. It is a great accomplishment to graduate without debt, especially when you are facing new expenses in the real world.
When you are faced with mortgages, car payments, marriage and family, it is great to be debt free. When you look around and see fellow graduates owing payments on loans in the six figures, you'll be happy you aren't one of them.
How to find money
Now, finding available scholarships and grants is time-intensive. Finding free money is harder than finding and applying for loans. But that convenience comes at a significant cost. Parents are better advised to think early and consider:
- a 529 Tuition Payment Plan that accumulates earnings tax-free as long as they are used to pay tuition
- similar prepaid college tuition plans offered by some states
- tuition payment plans available at some schools divide your college tuition into 12-month installments
- advanced courses completed in high school reduce tuition costs when transferable.
- plans to cover or reduce tuition offered by student or parent employers.
Entering college takes a lot of time and work. Parents and students are smart to start early and prepare a strategic plan. The College Planning Center of Rhode Island can help your with your college search and assist you with applying for financial aid. Check out their section on Financial Aid 101.