When it comes to paying for college, you could say that students have the short end of the stick these days. Government budgets are being slashed, college tuition is rising, and students are borrowing more education loans than ever before. Students are more frequently choosing schools based on cost, and schools are coming up with creative ways to sweeten the deal with non-traditional sources of financial aid.
Check out some of the new things schools are doing to get students in the door. If you’re willing to hunt for financial aid, chances are you’ll find all sorts of free money for college.
Guaranteed tuition savings plans
Some colleges are now offering guaranteed tuition programs that set the price of tuition for a certain period of time. If you can graduate in that time period, you know exactly how much you’ll pay because the tuition is locked in and won’t increase. For example, the University of Texas at Dallas offers a Guaranteed Tuition Rate Plan that sets tuition prices for in-state students for up to 12 consecutive semesters (four years, including summer sessions). As a bonus, since the program charges hourly up to a maximum of 15 credit hours, anything you take past 15 hours is free.
Out-of-state students can also find tuition breaks at colleges and universities. The University of Colorado Boulder, for example, guarantees a flat tuition rate for four years to its non-resident students, which can save families thousands of dollars in tuition hikes.
College room and board costs a lot and is getting more expensive every year, but some colleges are finding out ways to attract students — and keep them on campus — with initiatives that make paying for university housing a more attractive option that living off-campus.
At Cleveland State University, where 80 percent of students commute, the school’s Freshman Scholars program awards annual scholarships up to $5,100 — equal to a tuition discount of about 35 percent — to students who maintain a 3.0 GPA and live either on-campus on in university-sanctioned housing. The program works both as an inducement to students to live on-campus and as a way for the university to improve its campus life. Over four years, students who receive the scholarship can save $20,400.
Students can also get money for college from some schools’ marketing programs, if they end up attending. The University of Dayton recently rolled out a program that incentivizes students with significant discounts on textbooks. If prospective students visit campus, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and get accepted, they’ll be offered textbooks at a steep discount of $500 a semester, as long as they get them from the campus bookstore, meaning many students will be able to get their books for free. The program awards up to $4,000 over eight semesters (four years), which is a lot better than other campus visit incentives like coffee mugs and t-shirts.
These are just a few of the ways that colleges are adapting to changes in higher education funding and financial aid that are causing students to shop around for colleges. Do you go to a college that has a unique or non-traditional way to provide financial aid? Let our readers know about it and how the program is working for you.