Financing University: Diversify the source of your funds

By | June 13, 2007

Times have changed since the late 80’s when I graduated from the Univ. of St. Andrews with a degree in Greek, ancient Greek to boot! Since ancient times, student finances have been difficult for students to manage: fees, residence fees, food expenses, books and materials costs, living expenses, etc.. In those days, I received a grant and the tuition costs were picked up by the generous government department of education. This is a vast difference to how students today have to deal with the finances of going to University.

How do you think things have changed since your university days as far as student finances go? How did you manage things? What are the positive changes? The negative changes, too?

With the expansion of education in many countries, governments are now passing the buck more than ever on educational expenses to the individuals, families and society at large, to fund the ever-lengthening academic careers of students as they get a bachelor, masters, and doctorate degree. Naturally, diversifying the source of education funds is becoming quite a necessity.

Student finances are generally broken into five categories: scholarships or grants, education loans, parental support, investments from education savings plans, and individual contributions from money students have themselves saved or earned.

Scholarships: Free money, if you can get it!

Scholarships from Universities and organizations can really make a difference, but these days they are far from 100% of the total for all but the luckiest. Still, scholarships for costs like books, travel, etc. are quite common and students can hardly turn up their nose at a chance like that!

Loans: get out your student loan repayment calculator!

For most students, though, education loans seem to be the primary source of funds, either from several sources, or from one primary source. Many financial institutions help students take out a student consolidation loan as a way to cut interest rates on student loans. It’s certainly a far better option than using credit cards whose rates verge on ‘usurious’ in some instances. Other options include the Stafford loans (subsidized or unsubsidized) which are government guaranteed, too. Of course, loans will require repayment, so that factor needs to be taken into account when working out finances. Also, there are limits on the amounts needed, so they may not cover all your requirements.

Parents can play pivotal roles

If students are lucky, parents can really help in a number of ways, either during semester or the long breaks between. For example, living at home rather than going away to school is a great option for students studying in a larger city; parents can also offer a small stipend to cover living costs, or help pay for larger ticket items, too. If money is tight, though, practical help can sometimes make a difference, such as providing summer accommodation for the student if he or she chooses to go home.

If the parents have been financially shrewder , though, they may have already taken out educational investment plans whose goals are to provide cash for students to pay tuition fees or whatever. Naturally, education related inflation is higher than you might otherwise believe, so such plans may fail to cover the full costs. But still it can make a huge difference. In other cases, they may be able to take additional education loans out for their offspring.

Job Wanted!

The last, and often overlooked opportunity for funds is part-time work. If you are lucky, creative or entrepreneurial (look at Michael Dell!), you may find this a lucrative source of income, but for others more mundane jobs may help provide a stable income during your student years. Waiting tables, cleaning a supermarket, and selling books are some of the jobs that this writer undertook! The money wasn’t great, but it helped! And the experience is now something I would NOT trade for the world.

Solutions can be found to finance your degree, whatever it is! These are some of the sources that you can take advantage of, if you need to. These are not the only options for further study that you have: there’s also part-time study, distance study, work-study programs, and of course, the university of choice for all, the University of Life.

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