There’s no doubt about it: college is expensive. Whether you pursue an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree, or even continue on to graduate school, attending college will undoubtedly cost you thousands. However, you shouldn’t expect to pay the entirety of this cost out-of-pocket. There are more ways to pay for college than most people are even aware of. This post will discuss some of the more traditional and non-traditional ways to pay for a higher education. So if you are struggling to figure out how to pay for your schooling, keep reading!

Paying for College is Tough

There are so many things to consider when it comes to paying for college. Many unexpected expenses will likely pop up alongside your tuition bill, whether it’s the actual tuition itself, room and board, a meal plan, or books. And a lot of them will require payment up-front of some kind. 

Some of the funds you’ll use to pay for college will need to be repaid later, some are earned, and others are essentially gifts. We will go over each type of payment in the following section.

In-State vs. Out-of-State

Whether you attend school in-state versus out-of-state will also significantly impact what you pay in terms of tuition. While this mainly applies to public schools, some private schools will also have discrepancies in tuition prices for in-state versus out-of-state students. 

While students who attend a college or university in their home state will pay a deeply discounted tuition price, if you attend from out-of-state, you could pay double or triple this tuition rate. Of course, scholarships and grants can help bring this cost down, but overall, it is typically much less expensive to go to school in your home state. 

Public vs. Private

Public colleges and universities will typically offer discounted tuition rates for in-state students. Public universities are usually significantly less expensive than many private institutions because they are funded by the government. Therefore, they require less money from students to continue running. 

Private institutions, however, operate entirely on tuition money and donations from alumni. Private schools, then, will typically have higher tuition costs. This doesn’t always mean that private schools will end up being more expensive than public, though. It really all depends on the financial aid and scholarship money you get. 

Parental/Family Help

One of the primary ways students—especially young students—pay for college is with help from their parents and families. Of course, some people’s parents might have the money to pay for their entire education, but this is not usually the case. 

Despite this, many people will have parents, cousins, siblings, and other family members or close friends help them to pay for their education by giving them money or consistently supporting them throughout their education. 

If you do not have the opportunity to be supported by your family, don’t panic! You can still finance college through several other options. 


Loans are some of the most popular options for students to pay for their education. Unfortunately, as of March 2022, about 45 million people owed over 1.6 trillion dollars in student loan debt to the federal government–and those are just for federal loans! The reality is that many people carry student loan debt throughout their lives, so it is a resource that should be utilized intelligently. In other words, you’ll want to consider how you will pay it off in the future. Additionally, be sure you know how to use extra student loan money responsibly

There are two main types of student loans–federal loans from the government and private loans from banks or other lending entities. 


Federal student loans are a type of financial aid designed by the US government to help students find access to higher education resources. In 2018, around 70 percent of US students were granted federal student loans that covered either part or the total amount of their education. 

Typically, federal student loans have more flexible repayment options and lower interest rates than private loans. Additionally, federal student loans currently have the possibility of being forgiven, as the US government is presently offering debt relief to students who have taken out federal loans. 


Private loans are essentially the same idea, but they come from private lenders such as banks or other financial institutions. You can apply for private loans at any time, and they can be used for any number of expenses, including books, student housing, and other costs.

Private loans will require that you have a credit check, as they are not based on financial need. This means that you’ll need a decent credit score to be approved. Typically, they also have higher interest rates and more rigid repayment options. 


Scholarships are another type of financial aid and perhaps the most preferred form of financial assistance for most students. Scholarships are “gift aid,” or money for college that does not need to be repaid after graduation. This kind of funding is obviously ideal as you won’t need to worry about how to pay it back. 

Scholarships are typically awarded based on academic excellence, merit, or performance in some other area. For example, if your GPA is one of the best in your high school, you may get some merit-based scholarships. If you are an incredibly great golfer or football player, you may get scholarships based on your athletic achievements. 

Most people are not aware of just how many scholarships are available. You may also receive more than one scholarship. In fact, you could have many scholarships from a variety of sources. So be sure to check every nook and cranny to find out what’s available for you. Websites like or BigFuture are ideal places to find some excellent scholarships. 


Grants are another type of financial aid similar to a scholarship since they do not need to be repaid. But these are often based on financial need rather than merit or academic excellence. Therefore, grants are typically given to students who need the money the most for whatever reason. 

Many grants are also offered to historically underprivileged groups (BIPOC, LGBTQ+ students, children of single parents, disabled students, or first-generation college students). Getting more than one grant for your education is usually possible, so students can stack this kind of aid. You can also stack grants and scholarships to help you pay for college. 

Work Study

A federal work-study is a type of financial aid from the federal government given to undergraduate and graduate students. It allows them to earn money by working to pay for their education expenses. The government essentially assigns you a job at your university that will enable you to make money to help pay for your schooling.

For example, some of the work-study positions you could be assigned include tour guide, office assistant, intern, barista, research assistant, athletic trainer, and many more. Work-study earnings are yours to keep, and they don’t affect your financial aid eligibility. 


Assistantships are typically for graduate students. They are similar to work-study programs in the sense that your college or university hires you to do a job. Typically, however, universities will offer a tuition waiver in exchange for an assistantship job (you may be a teaching assistant or work another job at the university). This waiver may cover some or all of your tuition. Some positions will also offer an hourly wage on top of the waiver, but this depends on the job. 

Side Gigs

College students have always turned to side hustles to help them fund their education. But now, more than ever before, the side-gig scene is loaded with opportunities. From paid online surveys to online tutoring to selling your stuff online, you can make money if you know what to look for. The Branded Daily Digest has a wealth of information about college students making money with side gigs.

Hopefully, some of these ideas have helped you to brainstorm how you will pay for your college education. But, no matter how you finance your degree, be sure to keep track of your money and how much you will need to repay. Learning good financial habits now will ensure you remain financially stable in the future.