As the old adage states, “You can’t afford not to have a degree”. It is heartbreaking to hear anyone say that they cannot afford to complete college. It’s even more heartbreaking to hear someone declare that they have no interest in college or any specialized career training. Even if someone thinks they can make it in life without an education, it would be smart to back up their future with an education.
More often than not, financial challenges are inevitable without a college degree or specialized training. In our current society, the decision to avoid a higher or specialized education is directly related to the widening financial gap between the haves and the have nots. A higher education can determine financial success or a future of minimum wage jobs, if a job can be found. For many low-income women, the combination of a lack of education and children frequently relegates them to welfare recipients.
There are two common misconceptions about education, one is that if you do not have a lot of money, a higher education is out of reach; the other is that education is only for young people. People of all ages need to be educated, for those who ascribe to the Holy Scriptures, it is written that God uttered, “My people perish for lack of knowledge”. It is also written, “Get knowledge with all your might, for getting wisdom is the most important thing …” (Proverbs 4:7). “…for length of days is in his right hand and in his left hand are riches and glory…” ( Proverbs 3:16).
7 STEPS TO SECURING A COLLEGE DEGREE WITH MINIMAL FUNDS:
1. Consider Enrolling in a Community College /Junior College (JC):
Don’t think that a JC is beneath you, whether you are a good student or not. Financially, JC students have an advantage. Community college courses, books and many supplies are generally covered through FAFSA grant funds. University course credits and books are usually far too expensive for FAFSA to assist. Also, a community college can actually allow a student the opportunity to shine. Class sizes are smaller, opportunities for tutoring are generous, and a smaller environment can facilitate better extra curricular involvement; which is highly prized by universities.
JCs make it possible to finish a 4 year degree with less funds out of pocket; if you play your cards right. The key is to stay on the honor roll, and enroll in a college transfer program that ensures that you have all the courses required to transfer. Also, get involved with extra curricular activities at your JC; especially honor societies.
Don’t be fooled, JCs can also waste your time and money if you don’t have a plan, or if you enroll in certificate programs that do not sustain a decent paying job once you’ve completed the course.
Wayne County Community College is enrolling now, classes start August 20, 2013.
2. Determine & Research a Career or Major:
Decide which direction or career you would like to pursue, then research the job market for salary and viability; know if the career selected is in demand. Just selecting a major that seems easy or frivolous can result in years of debt, as well as a lack of job opportunities. Also, making drastic changes in career education can be costly and time consuming.
Exercise extra caution when choosing a short term certificate program. Many certificate programs utilize government funds and loans to pay for the course and promise job placements that are not really viable.
Once you’ve completed the certificate program, most student loans become due in 6 months. If you cannot secure employment that pays a substantial salary, you will fall into default of your loan(s) and your credit will be damaged, which could further impede your ability to find employment. Defaulting on a federal loan will prohibit you from any future government educational loans unless it is current or repaid. To avoid or remedy a student loan delinquency, request a deferment or forbearance.
3. Choose a College that is Accredited:
There are numerous for-profit colleges and institutions that market heavily to the public. Please check them out thoroughly before enrolling. Many of these for-profit colleges offer substandard courses that are often not accepted by universities; some are not even accredited.
PBS aired the best informational video on for-profit colleges entitled, “College Inc.” The documentary, produced by “Frontline” exposes the notorious side of for-profit colleges. It is a must see for potential college students and parents; you can view the entire video by clicking the highlighted title above. If the link does not access the video, visit www.pbs.org and type in College Inc. to view the program.
4. Know Which Courses Are Required for a University Transfer:
Communicate with your intended university about the community college in which you plan to enroll. Inquire if there are any transfer programs in place with your JC. It is crucial to understand which JC courses are required and accepted by the university. In Detroit, Wayne State University offers special transfer programs, such as TRIO and Wayne Direct. Students can enroll in these programs in conjunction with local community colleges; to ensure successful transfers.
5. Excel In All Courses to Achieve A High Grade Point Average (GPA):
The best method to ensure the possibility of lowering the costs of a higher education is to excel academically; strive to achieve the highest grades in the courses enrolled. The higher one’s grade point average (GPA), the better the chances are to be awarded financial assistance and scholarships.
6. Constantly Apply for Scholarships & Join Honor Societies:
Apply constantly for scholarships and join honor societies and organizations that will pay for your final two years. Scholarship.com is a comprehensive site of available scholarships. Remember, applying for scholarships is a numbers game, so don’t get discouraged.
Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) is an outstanding JC honor society with excellent resources for completely funding your last two years at a university. To apply to PTK, you must have one semester of studies at the JC and achieve at least a 3.5 grade point average (GPA). Don’t wait for an invitation, apply as soon as you are qualified; once inducted into PTK, become a board member for your school’s chapter. Board members generally are considered prime candidates for full scholarships by universities.
Wayne State University offers PTK members who graduate with a 4.0 GPA, a full financial scholarship for the remaining 2 years towards their baccalaureate degree. Mary Grove College and Madonna also offer full 2 year scholarships and other generous incentives for PTK members.
7. Don’t Fall Into Financial Traps; Good Credit is Essential
The most common financial traps for college students are:
- Allowing things & people to hinder their studies and take them off course, i.e. parties, relationships or just not being focused.
- Incurring financial debt through credit cards. College students are targeted on campus by credit card companies to sign up for charge cards when the student really cannot afford a credit card.
- There is also the temptation to borrow in excess on student loans; it is far better to consistently apply for scholarships than to potentially damage one’s credit with exorbitant student loans.
- Protect your credit; you will find that bad credit can prevent you from securing a good paying job.
Success is actually a simple recipe; you will find that this recipe will work with everything in life. The recipe for success starts with a strong desire, a smart plan, and the determination to stick to your goal.
Most importantly, make up your mind to not allow anything or anyone keep you from obtaining your degree. GOOD LUCK!