Economista: Alternative Ways to Pay For College

Even after exhausting all the well-known avenues to help pay for college — scholarships, grants, advanced placement (AP) courses, dreaded loans, mom, dad, aunty, and your fourth cousin twice removed — getting adequate financing for school can be as elusive as finding Big Foot. But there are some alternative approaches that may help to cover costs while you earn your degree. Check them out:

Sponsor solicitation: I stumbled upon a new website,, while browsing for some steals and deals. The site combines social networking with what it calls “microphilanthropy,” allowing students to set up profiles and state why they need extra help. Walletpop reports that the most a student has received is $500 (which isn’t small change when it comes to pricey books), but most donations range between $20 and $150 — if anything at all.

Tuition-free colleges — Yes, it’s as good as it sounds. Some schools are tossing exorbitant tuition prices and offering students tuition-less education. They range from liberal arts schools to more specialized colleges that focus on architecture or music. For a list of tuition-free colleges, check out

3-year degree programs — More colleges are making it easier for students to attain an accelerated undergraduate degree. Students can save as much as $10,000 in living expenses and up to $5,000 in tuition at a public college, says Ken Clark, a certified financial planner and author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Paying for College (Alpha, $18.95). Click here for more on 3-year degrees.

Volunteer programs — While Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, and Teach for America top the list of volunteer organizations that offer loan repayment assistance or forgiveness, there are a number of targeted programs that offer the same. Lawyers, doctors, nurses, and those with specialized skills can volunteer to work in a low-income neighborhood for a period of time for assistance with their student loans.

Renita Burns is a writer and content producer for