The Institute for College Access & Success estimates that in 2014, 7 out of 10 graduating seniors had leftover debt from student loans, though the average debt varied by state. In Illinois, for example, seniors had an average debt of $28,984.
Furthermore, financial experts estimate that the average student takes at least 21 years to pay the debt. And if you were take out a typical $30,000 loan with a 4.29% interest rate, you can expect to pay over $15,000 in interest alone, enough to cover the cost of a new car or down payment on a house.
Rather than join the statistics and pay student loans for much of your adult life, why not look for alternative ways to cover tuition? The following tips will help you find funding for trade school without a student loan.
1. File for Financial Aid
No matter your financial background, federal student aid programs can come to your rescue. When you file for Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you can find out whether you qualify for grants (which you don’t have to pay back) or Stafford/Perkins loans (which don’t accrue interest until after you graduate).
Filing for FAFSA has never been easier. Simply visit fafsa.gov and set up a new account. From there, you’ll answer questions about your taxable and non-taxable income, as well as any assets you currently own, your student background, and your dependency status.
2. Seek Employer Subsidization
If you plan to work as an HVAC technician during the school year, talk to your employer about subsidizing your education. Many employers receive federal tax breaks when they pay for their employees’ tuition and schooling, regardless of whether the student is a full-time or part-time employee.
Keep in mind that some employers will only give benefits if you’ve worked with them for a full year. Similarly, others may demand that you continue to work as an employee for several years after you graduate. Make sure you completely understand your employer’s policies before you agree for subsidization.
3. Apply for Multiple Scholarships
Many mistakenly believe that scholarships only go to the brightest, smartest, most athletic students. However, scholarships go to individuals from all walks of life and varying levels of academic success. In fact, millions of dollars in scholarships go unclaimed every year.
To improve your chances of claiming these funds, you’ll want to apply to as many scholarships as possible, rather than banking your hopes on one or two. Additionally, you should start your search for scholarships as early as possible, and read all the directions carefully. Late or misspelled applications won’t look as good to judges and teachers as polished, thoughtful, and accurate responses.
4. Set Up a Crowdfunding Account
Crowdfunding websites allow users to donate money to the most unusual and varied causes and products. Some users collect thousands of dollars so they can find ingredients for the perfect potato salad. While others manage to come away with over $25,000 to create toasted grilled cheese sandwiches with the face of Jesus cooked into the bread.
If you have an inspiring or unique story, set up an account at sites like GoFundMe, Upstart, Indiegogo, CrowdTilt, YouCaring, or Zero Bound. Keep in mind that if you do raise money for your HVAC training that some sites charge processing fees.
5. Rely on Public Transportation
Sometimes you only need some extra pocket change to finish classes without going into debt. In this scenario, a few small lifestyle changes could give you enough wiggle room to pay for books, tools, and other materials.
One of the best ways to cut costs is to choose alternative transportation methods. Rather than spending thousands of dollars each year on gas, car insurance, and repairs, sell your vehicle and walk, bike, or bus to school.
Financial experts estimate that most individuals save over $9,000 annually when they make the switch to public transportation. Better still, you significantly reduce your carbon footprint.
6. Use Student Discounts
If you need more ways to stretch your dollar, keep an eye out for student discounts. Many movie theaters, insurance companies, clothing and grocery stores, and online subscription memberships offer hefty discounts to anyone who can prove they attend a college or vocational school.
For example, as an Amazon Student member, you can receive free two-day shipping on eligible purchases as well as a 50% discount when you renew your Amazon Prime subscription. With the paid subscription, you would have access to thousands of movies, TV episodes, and books that would otherwise cost you a fortune to buy individually.
Need Additional Help?
Although all of the above tips and techniques can help you pay for you college, you may need more assistance to make it through the school year. For personalized help and advice, talk to a financial aid or guidance counselor about your available options.