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Monday, August 11, 2014

6 ways to Finance College | Back to School

Many of my Barbadian readers know the dire situation the local government has recently put students pursuing tertiary level education in. They've cut their spending to higher level education and left students with a large bill to foot and very little time to put together their finances. Just under a year since they made their decision in fact. In other countries, the student usually has to pay part of their tuition and housing, and if you’re an out-of-state, regional or international student the extra costs can sky-rocket. So here are a few ways to help you finance your college experience!

1. Loans

Don’t be too frazzled by the idea of a loan. Yes it’s borrowing money, but if in the end you get to achieve one of your dreams then what’s a loan right? You can probably pay it off within 10 years or less after you graduate and it just happens to be one of those inevitable things in life.
In Barbados, there’s the Student Revolving Loan fund which should be ideal, having a lower interest rate and allowing you to start paying back after your degree is completed. There are also bank loans, which may allow you to borrow more money, but do remember that sometimes their interest rate is higher too. Definitely check out what is offered to you locally and shop around until you find the best deal.

2. Scholarships

When I was younger I used to think that scholarships were only for those gifted or hard-studied brainiacs who aced their studies. But turns out there are so many different types of scholarships, you may even be able to achieve financing through a hobby  you’re good at. Volunteer work, being an outstanding citizen or a gifted sportsman are just some of the ways you can lift some of the burden of college fees. Scholarships may be a full year, covering all of your expenses, or some of the more essential such as tuition and housing. The best part about it is that you do not need to repay money, but you will be required to give of your service and dedication either during or after college. You can check out what local universities offer, merit-based, financial need or otherwise. And if you’re looking into overseas schools, here’s a very helpful site with a number of scholarships on it. Becoming an international it can be rather difficult to find a great financial aid.

3. Grants / Financial aid

Another way of “free money”, but definitely will not cover as much as a scholarship. This would still buffer the amount of money you have to spend out of pocket. Grant allowances are based on the importance of the major you’re studying to the country or sometimes on financial need.  Certain fields of study will garner more importance than others in terms of grants or scholarships , but do not be tempted to change your career goal because it is cheaper. Sometimes that can be a more costly mistake than you realise at the time. Whatever the case, do your research, knock on doors and find out what you need to in order to fuel your studies. Trust that your government has lots of hidden resources in education that are just waiting on you to discover them.

4. Do the Co-op for your degree if one is available

After college, there’s the job hunt. Pressure to repay loans and to become a responsible adult sets in, life becomes so much more real. I would have loved if a co-op was an option for me during my degree. Besides learning valuable, practical knowledge relevant to your study, you can also earn some money and potentially permanent employment. With that money, you can start to repay your loan, save , or invest until your degree is complete.Paying your loan earlier rather than later is always better too, because then there is less interest to be generated, and soon you’ll be debt free!

5. Get a part –time job

Similarly to the co-op, you can get something part-time and earn a few bucks. You don’t have to work within the field of your degree, but try to get a job that doesn’t interfere too much with your study or class time, because that could mean spending extra semesters at school. Some colleges offer student jobs, just check out the employment or finance sections of their website, call, or visit in person to find out. These jobs will be highly coveted so don’t be dismayed if you don’t get in. Try something else, maybe a supermarket, restaurant, retail even. Again, the skills you will learn will be invaluable when you put together your CV for your future employment. Every extra dollar counts, so save as much as you can for later, because things will pop up. Broken phones, laptops, even clothes.

6. Set a monthly budget and stick to it

Speaking of buying stuff, the easiest way to go broke at college (or in life really), is to not have a budget and stick it. Yes Forever21, Bath & BodyWorks and Sephora may be having sales, but you have to prioritise your spending habits. It is very easy to become overwhelmed and spend too much on stuff you may not even use. Let’s not get started on buying expensive trendy clothes. Don’t even bother, because if you do have a part-time job, doing that especially can have you living pay cheque to pay cheque. Eating out is another common culprit. It’s not everyday that you need to do have an Italian BMT or macaroons, just once weekly might be all you need, but as an everyday thing the costs do add up. Try setting out a budget for food, clothing, electronics, transport and entertainment. You could also include gifts because realistically, we have birthdays and holidays and it sucks not giving presents. You don’t want to be bored every weekend either so, going out is fine once you don’t over-spend. If you live on Hall then you won’t even have to worry about utilities, and with a meal plan you can eat prepaid meals, so then you can focus on saving for other things. Although not a direct way of financing college, it does play a key part in how you stay afloat.

I was lucky enough to only need grants during university, but it would have been great to do a Co-op or have more than one part-time job during. Since I also lived at home, I’m not an expert at all of the rough expenses of housing and such. I’d love to hear your experience with that if you have  and of course any other tips I may have missed out.

Good luck on your new journey!



  1. Good ideas! Im so lucky that all universities are free in My country. As long as you have the knowledge requirerd you Will get in. So you only have to pay for books and accomodation.

    1. Wow, that's lovely! Is it just for the nationals?


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