Pres. Obama wants to make community college free. If you’re close to graduating from high school this could be really exciting news. There are many programs available at two-year colleges that would qualify you for a great career. Four of the highest paying jobs that require only a two-year associate’s degree are in healthcare. One of the most lucrative is Radiation Therapist where it’s possible to earn as much as $110,000 a year. Nuclear Medicine Technologists earn up to $91,000 a year and Dental Hygienists earn as much as $93,000 a year. If you don’t mind the idea of working in a nuclear plant as a Nuclear Technician you could earn up to $93,800 a year. Or you could become an Electrical and Electronics Repairer and earn up to $84,490 a year.
The sad news is that it’s highly unlikely that two-year colleges will ever become free. Of course, you could pay for the schooling yourself and still get prepared for one of these careers. Two-year colleges today cost an average of $3300 a year for tuition and fees. There would be other expenses on top of this but that’s still more affordable than a four-year degree.
What’s better than free money?
You could sit around and wait for Washington to make two-year schools free or you could go to work and find other ways to get free money for college. Here are some of the best.
A Pell Grant
These are grants from the federal government of up to $5730. The government awards about 9 million of these grants a year. If you qualify for one, you could use it for fees, tuition, books and living expenses. It is needs based, meaning that you would have to prove a need. If your family earns less than $60,000 a year you would probably qualify for at least some award. To get one of these grants you must submit your FAFSA or Free Application For Student Aid. Right now would be a good time to get started filling out yours.
Find a scholarship
There are thousands of scholarships, other financial aid and internships available. The College Board website has a searchable database of them or you could go to Fastweb and search for a scholarship. The school you will be attending will also have scholarships and grants available. If you think outside the box you may be able to find a local organization or club that awards scholarships. Does one of your parents belong to the Elks, Moose, Masons or Rotary? These organizations often have scholarships for the children of their members.
The federal government will give you up to $4000 a year if you work on getting a teaching degree. However, you must also agree to teach in a high-need field in a low-income area for at least four years after you graduate. If not, you’ll have to pay back the money.
Move to Tennessee or Chicago
This state and city already have programs available to help cover the cost of community college that are similar to the one that Pres. Obama recently proposed. Tennessee will cover the cost of tuition at a technical school or community college if you aren’t already covered by a state scholarship or a Pell grant. Chicago also will cover the cost of tuition, fees and books that’s remaining after a Pell grant or state scholarship. However, to be eligible for this program you must have earned a 3.0 GPA in high school and place into a college-level math or English course.
Hit up your employer (or your mom’s or dad’s employer)
There are companies both large and small that offer discounts on college tuition to their employees or sometimes even scholarships. However, they often dictate the school you attend. For example, Starbucks offers full tuition reimbursement to any of its “partners” (employees) that are juniors or seniors at Arizona State University and working towards a bachelor’s degree. Freshmen and sophomores can get a partial Starbuck’s scholarship. And Wal-Mart offers discounts to its employees that are taking classes at the online school American Public University.
It’s also possible that your mom’s or dad’s employer offers scholarships to the children of its employees. So, be sure to have your mom or dad ask about this.
Work for free money for college
If you can’t qualify for a Pell Grant or get a scholarship and don’t want to work for Starbucks there are other companies where you could get some free money.
Up to $20,000
If you were to go to work for UPS, you could earn up to $20,000 towards your degree. And you could start taking advantage of this program the day you begin working for the company. More than 13,000 employees were helped out last year by UPS, which spent about $15 million on this. And most of these employees were part-time workers that worked three or four-hour shifts, which gave them time to still go to school.
As noted above, you can get a 15% discount on your tuition if you work for Wal-Mart and take classes at American Public University. This would save you about $100 per course and there are no limits on what you could study – so long as it is one of the 180 programs offered by American Public University. You could be either a full-or part-time employee and enroll as soon as you’re hired. This benefit actually extends to members of your family.
A small company gives big
Dick’s drive-in, which is in the Seattle area, has given away more than $1.3 million in scholarships to its employees since it began offering this program nearly 20 years ago. Its workers can enroll in any school and study anything they wish so long as they keep working at Dick’s for at least 20 hours per week. When they complete their studies, they don’t even have to continue working it Dick’s. As of this writing, about 80% of Dick’s 200 workers were enrolled in school or had already graduated with the help of this program.
The Home Depot
You could attend any accredited university, college or technical school and get support from the Home Depot. All full-time employees are eligible for help once they’ve worked there for a year. Salary workers can earn a maximum of $5000 per year while hourly workers can earn up to $3000. However, in this case the employee’s coursework must be related to the business.
Want to be a pharmacist?
If you work for Walgreens and attend pharmacy school you can get up to $12,500 annually for the cost of your tuition. However, you must have already spent 1040 hours on the job. You can get this money during the required pre–pharmacy coursework as well as the required four years of study at an accredited school of pharmacy.