Alternatives to Student Loans to Fund Your Education

Student Loan ApplicationWhen I was in high school, I worked two  (sometimes three) jobs so that I could go to college. Being a reckless teenager, I ended up spending most of the money I earned on nights out and dresses, but the purpose of my working so much during high school was to put myself through school.

When I first started taking courses toward my degree, I quickly realized that the money that I’d saved up barely covered my textbooks for the year and I had to be resourceful to figure out how to come up with the cash.

I wasn’t able to get student loans, which now I see as a blessing. Back then though, it sure led to some sleepless nights. Once I started taking action to pay for school through methods other than taking out student loans, I realized it wasn’t that difficult. Now that I’m out of school and many of my peers are drowning in debt, I’m so glad that I worked my butt off to pay for school in other ways than relying on loans.

Some of my methods may not work for you, but here are some that worked for me:

Get a Job

Of course it’s difficult to make money while you are in school without a job, and a traditional job delivering pizza or waitressing can be tremendously helpful in helping with tuition payments.

Many students think that they can’t work, because school takes up a lot of their time. Few students have so little free time that they can’t work at least part-time. Give up a weekend day (during which you likely wouldn’t be studying anyway) to get a job. Your wallet and future self will thank you.

Drop Some Courses

During my college career, I ensured I took a minimum of three courses at all times in order to maintain my status as a full time student. However, if I was feeling overwhelmed or I just didn’t have the cash to take five courses one semester, I’d drop one or two. That helps with the budget for the current semester, as well as provides more time to work.


I would always roll my eyes when I saw advice that students should look into bursaries and scholarships when I was going through college, because I figured that anybody who was entitled to them would have one. This isn’t the case.

I was encouraged by a professor to apply for a bursary for $1000 that the school was giving to a few students that showed financial need. I filled out one form, and got a cheque in the mail a few months later. It was a complete, happy surprise, and if I wasn’t encouraged by the instructor to fill out the form, I wouldn’t have received it.

Paid Internships/Co-Op Work Terms

In my third year of college, I signed up for the co-op education option, because I really wanted some work experience so I wouldn’t be left without a job after graduation.

It turns out that I could use the credits that I gained through working in paid internships that I got through the program, toward my degree.

Not only was I paid to get work experience, but I was able to take fewer courses because my credits counted toward my education.

See If Your Job Will Sponsor You

Even if you are in a job that you perceive as dead-end, follow up with your manager or your HR department to find out whether or not you can get your education at least partially funded by your employer. This may be possible; however, often the company requires you to stay on after graduation working in the field for a certain period of time. This is only fair, and it can be a viable option for you.

There’s nothing like the sense of pride that you get when you walk across that stage after years of study groups and cramming sessions. That feeling is even better when you know that you graduated without debt.


Alternatives to Student Loans to Fund Your Education — 12 Comments

  1. Co-op work terms are key. You’re forced to work which gets you into the habit of being a real adult. You see what politics you have to go through, how it feels to wake up every single day, and you gain experience.

  2. My husband worked his way through mortuary school by doing a half-paid internship and working at a pizza place. He still ended up with some students loans but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could’ve been!

  3. These are great ideas, Daisy. Thank you for mentioning so many options. While I did work two jobs in high school and one during college, it was just enough to pay for books and pizza (aka beer) money. 😉

    I really wish I’d educated myself about the options available. I paid for roughly half of my tuition myself and ended up paying much more than I borrowed because I wasn’t smart enough to pay it off quickly! Oh, hindsight!

  4. I had the old GI Bill after 4 years in the Air Force to earn my bachelor’s degree. It gave me $15,500 to use over the 4 years for approved expenses. That was nowhere near enough if you included room and board, so I moved back in with my parents and attended the local junior college for 2 years and the local state university for 2 more years. I worked at each college’s tutorial center teaching math, physics, and structural engineering for spending money. Luckily, my parents lived within a bicycle ride of both campuses. I never had any debt. After getting my bachelor’s degree, I moved out for good and landed my career job. My job paid for my master’s degree.

  5. Luckily, I didn’t get a student loan. Well, it really is not that famous here in our country.
    Though, I’m still planning to get a scholarship just so my parents won’t need to pay for my tuition fees every semester.

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