Uni: Paying for school

Oh, yeah, here's the elephant in the room. My fellow student bloggers never really touched on the massive cost of going back to school, especially at a really expensive place like St. Louis University.
No offense intended to the school with that remark. Believe me, the quality of education I received from the instructors was extremely high (not intending to diss my community college teachers at all, but, you could tell the difference, sorry).

I will have some follow-up commentary on dealing with student loan debt in a unique summary post I will share after my existing posts have gone live.

Originally posted March 1st, 2011:

Since this blog was launched, we’ve been telling you about our experiences, in school and in life, and given some information as to how we’ve coped, or what we’ve given up, and what we’ve gained.
But, one thing we haven’t delved too deeply into is… how we’ve been paying for it.

I’ll start first with the value of compensation for a job. I work for a non-profit, and I’ve been faced with the fact many times over the years that I could be earning a higher salary in private industry. Of course, my desire for higher wages has been balanced by job security, a decent amount of vacation and other benefits… such as educational support.
My employer* allows all employees (as long as they’ve not received corrective actions in a given calendar year) a certain amount of annual educational support to the institution of their choice, as long as their major is approved as applicable to the organization (so, my degrees in Drafting Technology and Computer Science were quickly approved, whereas a degree in Aeronautical Engineering probably wouldn’t be).
Though my employer* is generous, the organization cannot afford to pay for all of my classes. So I’ve had to supplement with other methods.

The free application for federal student aid is your first and foremost help, so start there. You provide information from your tax return and other personal information and – voila – you’ve applied to programs such as the Pell Grant and 8 other federal student aid programs, as well as state and institutional aid.
This will also be your gateway to student loans to cover the rest of your expenses.

Private scholarships are another method to obtain funding for your university education.
There are many resources offered by Saint Louis University.  I will warn you that these scholarship applications can be quite time-consuming. Most of them will also require letters of recommendation from multiple people. I’d suggest lining up a handful of folks who really, really, really like you and would be willing to pound out a ton of these, because each program will be requesting different information.

With that said, there are specialty scholarships that you might qualify for that others do not. I’ve seen scholarships for left-handed people, for single mothers, for women in computer science, those with disabilities… just about anything you can imagine is used as a criterion for some specialty scholarships. It may seem like a lot of work when you look at the applications, but, ask yourself if writing a 500-word essay and filling out a form is worth the chance at a $500 scholarship?

In order to pay for my books, I have worked on Amazon.com’s crowdsourcing program, Mechanical Turk. I can either receive my payments in cash, or use them for purchases on Amazon.com. As students, we’re eligible for a free year of the Amazon Prime program, which gets us free shipping on many orders.
[I believe that after a year of free Amazon Prime, you can also get 1/2 price annual fees for so long as you're a student. They didn't have the amazon streaming video service back then, but, my house uses it now, streamed through a Roku box, it's great for free older movies and tv shows, and for renting new movies.
There are also more crowdsourcing programs available, even for mobile devices, such as iPoll and GigWalk, check them out if you need to earn a few bucks.]

Paying the Piper
I’m sure there are other programs and options out there to help us keep our costs down, and to help us drum up extra support, so we’re not paying so many out-of-pocket costs for our educational expenses. A bit of up-front effort can really pay off, so be sure to do your research and fully utilize the resources your employer and the school provide.

When I graduate, I will have student loans. I’m not thrilled about that [I hate carrying debt of any kind.]. But, these loans are only a fraction of my educational expenses at SLU, due to the support I received from my employer and the grants that I have received.

Photo Credit: http://www.123rf.com/photo_2983021_blackboard.html
* all opinions expressed on this blog, and anywhere else I write online, represent my own opinions and not those of my employer nor it's affiliates.

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