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Get Paid to Go to School (Yes, It’s Possible)

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I don’t have to tell you that college is expensive.  I think you already knew that one.

If you’re thinking about going to college, getting ready to go and/or are just interested in ways to go to college, let it be known that there are free ways to go to college and even get paid as well.  And, no, I promise it’s not a scam, either.

In today’s post, I wanted to talk about the many ways you can get paid to go to school, whether you want to go part-time or full time.  Yes, you heard that right… paid.  It won’t be as easy as signing up and enjoying a tuition-free experience, but with some work, you could save tens of thousands of dollars.  Don’t worry, I cover it all.

If this sounds like something of interest to you, then strap in and considered one of the many options I list below as I’m about to list quite a few.

From single mothers to nursing students and 18 years old, almost everyone can find at least one tip that works for them.

How to Get Paid to Go to School (Online, Too!)

Apply to an Apprenticeship

An apprenticeship is a legitimate way to a well-paying career and requires no college loans.  In fact, you get paid to train and learn the inside and outs of your new job.  It’s one of the best ways to start a career without the need to invest thousands of dollars.

In the apprenticeship world, there are two to consider:  a trade and an academic.  In a trade apprenticeship, you will learn all of the necessary trades to complete your work, such as becoming a plumber, auto mechanic, etc.  As for an academic apprenticeship, this is the process of blending your training with a degree program, usually in fields like information technology and healthcare.

The great thing about apprenticeships is that you can get paid, gain workplace experience and acquire the skills that employers value.  More than 94% of apprentices who complete one retain employment, with an average annual salary of $70,000, according to Apprenticeship.gov.  Once you find a job, you may then find your company will help pay for your future college degree and the skills you already learned may be turned into college credits as well.

To learn about how you can become an apprentice, I highly recommend you start with the free Department of Labor’s apprenticeship database.



College Financial Assistance

Almost all colleges and universities have some sort of financial aid programs, sometimes covering up to 100% of the costs.

The policies will vary, but usually, if you contact your college admissions office, they will be able to point you in the right direction.

Generally, to qualify, you will have to fill out the federal government’s free application for federal study aid, commonly referred to as FAFSA.  On this form, the government will factor in your income, assets and additional factors, computing how much you may be able to afford with your own resources.  If they determine you qualify for aid, then they will reward you in the form of grants, scholarships, loans, etc.  Loans have to be repaid, unfortunately, but grants and scholarships do not.  Before you even fill out the form, you can estimate your aid via StudentAid.gov.

Aside from the FAFSA forms, local state programs may be able to assist as well.  As mentioned, talk with the colleges you’re interested in to receive more information.

Community College Assistance

I wanted to mention this option here as it’s a pinch different than that of the assistance mentioned prior.

What’s commonly known as a Pell Grant, this can provide enough to cover the costs of full-time enrollment at a community college.  You will still need to submit a FAFSA for each year to qualify, but it could at least cover the first two years before you transfer off to a four-year university.

Also, aside from filling out the FAFSA forms, check your city/state laws as some states now offer tuition-free community college options.

Corporate Tuition Reimbursement

If you’re already working with an employer, see if they offer some sort of tuition reimbursement.  Today, many employers offer this as a perk and you may not even realize it.

To find out if your employer does, refer to your hiring paperwork, if you still have it, and/or talk with the HR department to receive more details.  A quick search can yield some results as well if you work with a larger employer.

Even if your employer does offer tuition reimbursement, the policies will vary.  Some may pay for the entire degree, no matter what it is, whereas other businesses may only pay for a certain amount as an annual limit may be in place.  Other businesses may only pay for degrees related to their industry and/or state you need to manage a minimum GPA to qualify.

Even if you’re not working with an employer that offers this benefit, there are a ton of them out there, even if you don’t have any experience.  Starbucks, for example, offers 100% tuition coverage for first-time bachelor’s degree holders.  There are hundreds more as well.  Maybe I will create a detailed post in the future, but for now, a quick search can help answer this question.

Work for a College

This is similar to that of working with an employer, only that I felt it deserved its own section

Today, most of your college institutions allow you to pursue an education for pretty much nothing as long as you’re hired and working.  From being an administrative assistant to a janitor, it’s possible.

If considering this option, do check with your school before applying because, like employers, the eligibility varies as does the generosity.  Your college should have a page dedicated to this information to give you an idea as to what’s expected of you if you were interested.

Become a Teaching Assistant

Similar to that of working at a college mentioned prior, I wanted to include this option if you already have your bachelor’s degree.

If you plan on applying to graduate school, consider seeing if you’re qualified to teach an introductory course and/or even help assist other professors.

Oftentimes, these positions come with a stipend and even tuition reimbursement.  In some cases, you could walk away with a profit.

Join the Military

I know this one is extreme, but as in all of my guides, I like to include as many options as possible.

As one of the biggest appeals of joining, the military can pay for your education.  As of 2020, for instance, the military tuition program assistance can pay up to $4,500 per year for any eligible recipients, including tuition, fees, books and course materials.  Every branch, however, has its form and rules.

The GI Bill, on the other hand, can provide up to 36 months of education assistance, but it can greatly vary as to how much you can receive per month/year.  As these payments are set by Congress and can change year to year, it can vary, but what you will find is that most can get their entire tuition bill covered.

For more information, I recommend reviewing the comparison chart and educational benefits if you were to consider joining.  It’s one of the many perks to consider.



Scholarships and Grants

As mentioned prior, scholarships and grants do not have to be paid back, but finding one can be troublesome.  If you treat finding a scholarship and grants like you would a job, you may be surprised as to what you could find out there.

The great thing about scholarships is that they are often open to all, no matter what your financial/life situation looks like.  You may have to fit a certain niche/demographic, but there’s something out there for you, I can promise you that much.  Grants, on the other hand, can be harder to find since financial restraints come into the picture.  It’s one not too ignore.

To start finding reputable scholarships, I would start with CareerOneStop.com, a source sponsored by the Department of Labor.  It’s 100% free to use and you can filter through thousands of scholarships paying thousands of dollars.  Cappex is another resource to consider.  Aside from these great resources, also check locally as these tend to offer the most success.  Check with businesses or even search for something like “(your city) + scholarships” to see what comes up.

Again, finding a scholarship can take some work, but it can pay off huge if you find the right ones.  If you put forth the right mindset, it’s a great way to avoid paying a hefty tuition bill.

Final Thoughts

In a way, you’re not being “paid” to go to school, per se.  But, seeing you could be saving $10,000, $30,000 or even $50,000+, this was money you had to earn anyways and are now saving, right?

Take a gander at the list and see if something works for you.  I promise that no matter who you are and what your financial situation is, there’s something for you.  Yes, it will take work, but it will all pay off in the long haul.

As always, if I’m missing anything or you want to add to this list, then by all means, feel free to shout out in the comments below.

Have you won a scholarship?

Did FAFSA work out for you?

Did your employer help?

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Tom Nathaniel

Hi! My name is Tom Nathaniel, and I created LushDollar to help share my honest thoughts on everything money. It's the Internet's most honest money site after all. I have worked in the finance industry since 2006, consulting with multiple Fortune 5000 companies.

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