Let’s face it: school is expensive. Sometimes very expensive and that cost is still rising. In today’s economic climate (or perhaps, in any economic climate), not many people have thousands of spare dollars lying around to pay for higher education and not everyone qualifies for scholarships. Many people (myself included) have made it through higher education by eating lots of spaghetti, working part time at random jobs and accepting debt from student loans. However, this is not practical or workable for many life situations. When not used with caution, student loans can add up quickly and the results can be overwhelming.
While I believe that student loans can be extremely helpful and the end results far outweigh the initial debt, they are not for everyone. If you’ve already exhausted or eliminated the student loan option, that doesn’t mean you have to give up on your dream of a degree and all the benefits (personally and financially) that a degree has to offer. So, what are your other choices? The good news is that there really are some other options available and two of the best ones available right now are corporate education incentive programs and stimulus programs.
- Corporate tuition reimbursement policies and incentive programs. These vary greatly, but in general, a company will cover (either in full or a certain percentage) each college credit hour an employee earns (note: some companies have a C-or-better grade policy) or they offer benefits or potential pay raises for reaching certain levels of continuing education. The Fort Collins Police Department, for example, offers tuition reimbursement for credits earned at an accredited school. Working for the Fort Collins Police Department would be a perfect way to gain an understanding of the police force, processes, procedures, etc., and you could be paid for taking Fire and Emergency Services classes at Colorado State University. What a great way to prepare yourself for the position you want and keep the cost of schooling down!Depending upon the field you are entering, there may be even more options. Nurses, for example, are in very high demand and many hospitals are reaching out and offering large scholarships or incentive opportunities in hopes of easing the nurse shortage. If you already have a position, make sure to contact the HR department of your company for more details and to see if your employer has a policy related to education.
- Stimulus Money. Right about now, some of the stimulus money that has been set aside for education should be trickling down and available for student scholarships and incentives. There are some grants that have been designed to offer the most help to people who are in difficult circumstances and there are free grants for college students. Make sure to contact the financial aid department of your school to see what kinds of scholarships or aid you might qualify for. You may be surprised about what money is up for grabs.
Yes, school can be expensive, but that shouldn’t be the deal breaker for whether or not you get your degree. Instead, schedule some time to talk to your company and school, explore your options and find a path that will enable you to meet your obligations (family, bills, etc) and still meet your education goals. For some more perspective on this topic, check out the recent discussions that have been happening on Colorado State’s Continuing Education LinkedIn page. There you’ll be able to read how some other students have found tuition reimbursement from their companies and other strategies they’ve tried.
We’d love for you to share your experiences there too!