Before borrowing money to pay for school, exhaust all alternative funding sources available. When developing a college funding strategy that includes scholarships, grants, and more traditional forms of student aid, consider the following options to cover educational costs.

Tuition Installment Plans– An installment plan allows a parent or student to break up the tuition balance by paying the amount due over a specific period. The short-term payment plan allows families who are unable to make one lump sum payment cover the cost of their educational fees prior to the end of the semester or academic year. Paying the full balance in increments also allows students to maintain their course load and keep their student account current. Most academic institutions will charge a nominal fee (less than $25) to enroll in a tuition payment plan.

Crowdfunding– Crowdfunding is simply a method of raising small amounts of money to fund a project or venture. This requires the student to appeal to a network of individuals to amass capital. Students can reach out to friends, extended family and their supporters by fundraising online on various crowdfunding platforms (Plumfund, etc.).  Students may seek donations from their supporters to cover the cost of tuition, books, housing, and other college-related expenses.

Fellowships – This is a monetary award given to a student for advanced studies in a specific academic discipline. These merit-based awards are often available to students pursuing graduate or postgraduate coursework. Students may seek fellowship opportunities from sponsoring organizations (academic institutions, non-profits, foundations, etc.). Note that fellowships often require service commitments that may last for a predetermined period (months, years, etc.).

Assistantships– Students seeking a graduate degree can receive a paid academic appointment that requires teaching or conducting research. Financial support is provided to students who engage in various tasks that support the functions of academic units within the educational setting.

Tuition Reimbursement/Tuition Assistance Plans – A tuition assistance program is an employee benefit through which an employer pays for an established amount of continuing education credits or college coursework to be applied toward a degree or certification. Many big box retailers, national banks, and healthcare systems offer tuition reimbursement for hourly and entry level positions.  However, organizations large and small with a commitment to increased educational attainment often offer their employees tuition assistance benefits. Organizations are beginning to increase their educational benefits as they see the positive impact they can have on their business. Therefore, choose your employer wisely.

Volunteering with AmeriCorps–  Upon completion of a term of service, students participating in AmeriCorps programs can earn education awards worth up to the maximum Federal Pell Grant for a year of full-time service. Individuals age 55 or older can earn a $1,000 education award through the AmeriCorps Silver Scholars program and transfer it to a child, grandchild or foster child. Learn more about AmeriCorps here: To apply for an AmeriCorps position with Earn to Learn FL visit: .