An Unconventional Guide to Paying for College

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The Costs of a College Education

Posted by on Oct 19, 2015 in Getting Started | 0 comments

College education is not cheap; the cost seems to increase each year and the level of debt as recorded by student loan statistics confirm this. The $1 trillion involved is truly staggering. That of course excludes details of the money lent to students by their parents and other revenue raised to allow students to complete their education as a prelude to career. The chances of a successful career are perceived to increase for graduates but they mostly face repaying their debts as their pay checks begin to come in.

It is essential that a student and his or her parents do some research to obtain the money required unless it has already been safely saved anticipating the future needs. That can be difficult and the recession certainly destroyed many family’s savings.

Alternative Loans Specific to Education

The Federal Stafford Loan is competitive. Those who qualify get subsidized; the interest is paid by the Government for the time the student is still at college. Unsubsidized loans are available to all and interest deferred. The loan rate is capped at 8.25% but is variable. The amount that can be borrowed varies from student to student but is never more than $31,000 in total. Parent PLUS Loans and Perkins Loans are two other avenues of finance while private loans generally require a co-signatory. The latter are particularly aimed at needy students and their numbers have also increased since the recession struck a few years ago.

Other Revenue Sources

Parents can re-mortgage their homes as another alternative though the problems that the real estate market experienced during the recession has meant that the level of equity that many families owned was reduced and is just recovering. There is sometimes a cash element to an insurance policy or the chance of withdrawing a sum from the 401K Retirement Fund though the latter has an impact on retirement provisions and that can be a dangerous move.

That should be a last resort. Everyone needs to make proper provision for retirement and keep making contributions. That is a discipline that should lead to a comfortable retirement and that is less likely to happen if people draw money back out for other use.

Pay Off Expensive Debt

If you have a child in his or her mid-teens who is almost certain to continue on to college before starting to work then you should be making the suitable preparations to ensure their time can be funded. If recent years have been difficult because of the recession then it may be a challenge. What is certain is that if you are to help in any significant way then you need to look at your financial position and make some appropriate decisions. Certainly you need to get rid of any expensive debt you may currently funding. A common example is a credit card balance that incurs a high rate of interest each month. You can pay such amounts off with a personal loan at a much lower rate of interest if you have a regular income and appear capable of making the repayment instalments throughout the agreed term of the loan.

A Good Budget

It highlights the absolute need for everyone to have a budget and the discipline to follow it. It must show you are ‘balancing the books’ to start with mindful that if there are imminent education costs to add there may be the necessity to make economies elsewhere. The personal loan is one part of that. Certainly other household expenditure may be reduced by seeking more competitive utility suppliers, insurance premiums and telephone network costs.

The budding student can perhaps contribute as well? There are part-time jobs available now that the economy is improving. Those parents who have instilled the value of money into their children at an early age may well find that as teenagers they are more than willing to do a little work and they may have saved money themselves in addition.

There is certainly great merit in continuing education and with a little financial prudence it should be affordable. The benefits should come in the future with the prospects of a higher paid job as a result of graduating before going into the jobs market.

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Would you Pay for a FAFSA Prep Service

Posted by on Jul 15, 2013 in Student Loans | 6 comments

tax prep

A few weeks ago I posted a review of Dave Ramsey’s College Planning Service. You all had mixed reviews of the product, and many people have come down hard on Dave for the product.

So, because I am not Dave, and because I do not have a cushion of millions to fall back on if a product/idea goes bust, I wanted to float an idea by you all before pursuing it any further.

Considering a FAFSA Prep Service

A coworker of mine was talking to me recently about how the lines at our local community college’s financial aid office are out the door each semester. Their office is woefully understaffed and the people who truly need help filling out a FAFSA, or answering their financial aid questions, are swamped.

Do you think these same people would pay to have help completing their FAFSA? Rather than wait in a long line in a financial aid office, would they rather go sit in a cushy chair across from a personalized advisor, and pay to have help filling out the FAFSA?

Consider this,, the non-government entity run by Student Financial Aid Services, Inc. completes tens of thousands of FAFSA applications each year and they charge $79 for each application. People still pay this fee even though the FAFSA can be completed for free at

Why do people pay this? To be fair, I know that many folks stumble across and think it is the official government site, even though it clearly states it is not. SO a portion of these customers are there because of a lack of knowledge.

The rest however, have made it very clear that they are willing to pay for this professional service, and to have personalized assistance in completing their FAFSA.

In talking with a number of these folks, they view it as no different than paying someone else to complete their taxes each year. They know they could do it themselves for free, but they are too busy/confused/lazy to do it themselves.

Does it Defeat the Entire Purpose of Financial Aid?

Does a service of this kind defeat the entire purpose of financial aid? Most often, the people submitting a FAFSA application are the ones who need to qualify for need-based aid. They don’t have $79 lying around to throw away on professional FAFSA assistance.

Would it be highway robbery to provide this service at a cost to college students and their parents?

These are the questions that I am wrestling with. There are many other physical limitations to a service of this kind, but before I move any further in the planning phase of this business, I need to iron out the ethical dilemmas.

I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

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I’m Writing My First Book – Help Keep me Accountable

Posted by on Jul 5, 2013 in How to Pay College Tuition | 12 comments

my first book

Part requirement for my Master’s thesis, part lifelong dream, part income generation tool, and part social promotion strategy; my first non-fiction book is currently under development. As part of my Master’s course work, I have known that this day would come for a few years now. Getting to this point however, has been a struggle, and it is hard to believe this is actually happening.

Regardless of all of that, the first pages have been written and my book is under way!

I don’t have a title chosen yet, although the working title is “The Smart Way to Pay for College, Post Great Recession”. Please let me know if you have any brilliant ideas for a title.

As you can likely deduce from the working title, the book is a non-fiction guide to helping students, parents, and other family members make smart decisions with college financing. I introduce some unconventional means of raising money to pay for college, and hope to provide a great resource for anyone struggling with the rising costs of college.

I hope that this book can be a handbook to paying for college in 2013 and beyond. The college finance landscape has changed dramatically in the last 5 years, and old tactics won’t work any more. We need to re-tool our thinking if we want to have any hope of being able to afford college when our children decide to go.

As much as I would like, this book’s goal is not to battle the high cost of college tuition. That is a separate beast and one that I can’t tackle alone. My goal however, is to help you manage those rising costs and find ways to negate the rise in college tuition.

Where You Come In

The entire purpose of my book is to help you (students, parents, grandparents, or others) understand and better manage the college finance system.

This is my full-time profession so I feel like I have my finger on the pulse of the hot button issues, but I crave your help in letting me know what questions you have!

What are the burning questions you have about paying for college?

What makes you the most angry about the college finance process?

If you could change one thing (besides getting free tuition…) what would it be?

What are your views on working while going to school?

Do you plan to take out student loans?

I also plan to post outlines, chapters, and excerpts from my ongoing book project here on Money for College Project. My goal is to hold myself accountable to you through my blog, and I hope you will help by calling me out on my progress, and checking in to see how things are coming.

Oh, and if you would be up for an interview let me know because I need to conduct a number of them!

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Student Loan Interest Rates Doubled! Are You Ready?

Posted by on Jul 2, 2013 in How to Pay College Tuition, Student Loans | 8 comments

student loan deferments

By now you have likely heard that last Friday, Congress failed to pass an extension which would keep student loan interest rates low. Because of this failure, yesterday, Stafford Subsidized student loans doubled in interest rate from 3.4% to 6.8%!

Yes, these are the loans that are made available to students who come from low to middle income families and also qualify for the Federal Pell Grant. Yes, these are need based loans that just received a doubling of their interest rates.

Both isles of Congress seem fairly set on passing legislation that will reduce these interest rates back to their former levels, but for now, the infighting has prevented any actual measures being passed. Until Congress takes action and changes this interest rate back, any new Stafford loan disbursements made after July 1, 2013 will be under the new interest rate increase. The good news is that if Congress does pass this measure, it would be retroactive in time for the upcoming Fall 2013 semester. So please let your Congressman know how much you would like the interest rates to stay at 3.4%.

What Should You Do?

Unfortunately, if you are in a situation where you need to take out student loans, there is really nothing that you can do. Stafford subsidized and unsubsidized loans are the most competitive interest rate student loans available, and their repayment options are by far the most flexible of any loan type you will find. If you need a student loan, this is still your best choice for a loan.

You can however, try to guard yourself from having to take out student loans at all. You should always max out any “free” financial aid before you consider student loans as an option. Many financial aid award packages automatically bundle student loans in with your financial aid award, but you do not have to be so quick to borrow.

You can maximize your scholarships searching by checking out the free listings at your local library, your high school guidance counselor, your department at college, or your professors. These resources are often excellent resources for scholarships, that not many other folks think to explore.

You could also consider becoming an entrepreneur and starting your own business to pay your way through college. You could buy and sell used textbooks, you could start a furniture moving company moving stuff into and out of dorm rooms, you could start a computer repair service on campus, you could start a mobile coffee cart business, or you could freelance write online for some extra cash.

All of these methods will earn you money which you can then use to pay your tuition outright. In my mind, there is not much more satisfying than working hard and paying cash for something you are passionate about. Paying your own way through college also makes you appreciate what you are paying for and will likely help you be more invested in your education. You will also pick up some very valuable business skills, and develop an entrepreneurial mindset that will benefit you throughout your entire life.

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Weekly Roundup: Writing Inspiration Edition

Posted by on Jun 28, 2013 in Gifts for College Students, How to Pay College Tuition | 3 comments

I had dinner with an old friend last night, and during our conversation he told me that he had published a book last year. I was floored. It was a fiction novel, and he wrote the entire book in about 9 months. We started talking about his writing and publishing experience, and I found out that he has published using a print on demand service, and is currently selling about 125 books a month on Amazon!

As we talked further, he told me that he has hired a narrator who is currently recording an audiobook version of his novel, and he has even been approached by a producer who is considering purchasing the rights to the book to make a movie. Needless to say, I had to find out more!

We talked for a few hours about the entire process, and before the night was over I was completely inspired to go out and get published myself.

I’ve had dreams of being published before, non-fiction rather than fiction, but I have never felt I had the motivation to actually do it. Rekindling an old friendship and knowing someone who is very similar to me has gone through the process successfully, was all the motivation I needed to start typing words into my new non-fiction book.

So here is to keeping up the progress, and hopefully I can report back within the next year that I have published my first book!

Here is what went on at Money for College Project as well as with my Yakezie friends. Enjoy!

Money for College Project


Weekly ROundup



7 Ways to Earn $1000 Per Month




Yakezie Friends


Edward Antrobus – Blue Collar Money



Funancials – How I Started Investing



On Target Coach – The 5 Club



Debt Roundup – Why I Save



KNS Financial – Traffic Light Camera Scam



Fat Free Finance – Stop Comparing Rent to Mortgage



Mom and Dad Money – Liebster Award



Stacking Benjamins – Sketch Your Goals



Tie The Money Knot – Bribe Your Kids Read More

7 Ways to Earn $1000 Extra Per Month

Posted by on Jun 26, 2013 in Gifts for College Students, How to Pay College Tuition | 10 comments

earn extra money

Wouldn’t it be great to earn $1000 per month, or more, extra each month?

What freedom would that open up in your monthly budget, in your savings goals, in your wealth creation scheme, in your retirement planning, in your vacation or new car fund?

Regardless of what you would use it for, all of us could use an extra $1000 per month. The trick, is figuring how to actually make that happen. I don’t have any magic formulas here, and certainly no tricks or scams. The ideas I have listed below are all ones that I have either personally tried, or know of folks who have done successfully. Many of these ideas may not be full-time business material, but that is not our goal. Our goal is to create a “muse” or an income generating vehicle that will produce at least $1,000 extra per month, while not take consuming all of our time.

Here are my ideas:

1. Rent Scooters and Bicycles to College Students

College students hate bringing their bulky bicycles down to campus and they hate bringing their expensive scooters from their homes. They also hate having to drive a full size car onto campus, and pay for the ridiculously high parking pass and the unavoidable parking fines. The solution is to buy a collection of used bicycles (both mountain and road bikes) and rent them out to college students. You would charge an upfront fee that would cover the lease for the entire 9 or 12 month school year. You could also rent out scooters, although these would take much more of a significant upfront investment. Your quickest path to profitability is to buy used bikes, and rent these out for $20 to $30 per month. At $20 per month, you would only need to rent out 50 bikes to reach your $1000 per month income goal.

2. Sell Informational Products

You can sell an informational product on any topic, to virtually anyone. If you think hard enough, I can virtually guarantee you that you have a skill that someone would pay you for. Even if this is a physical skill such as woodworking landscaping, plumbing, or fixing cars, these skills can easily be transitioned into informational products. The key to making at least $1,000 per month selling informational products is just that, the ability to sell them. You will need a vehicle for selling, such as a website or a blog, and you will need to understand internet marketing. The upside is huge with this route, and I believe one of the big futures in internet marketing.

3. Create a Membership Site

Similar to the information products above, a membership site allows you to bring in members who pay a monthly subscription fee to be in your special club online. They are willing to pay this fee for the value they receive. This could include exclusive material, private mentoring sessions, one on one examples and coaching, or access to the private membership community. You can base this membership site around any products or genre, but be sure it is one that you are confident you can add value to. Membership sites can be an excellent way to make money, but the members can also be fickle and turn on you if they do not receive the value they expected.

4. Buy and Re-Sell on Craigslist

Last year I was trying to buy a small pressure washer off of Craigslist. I found one I liked, went to the guys’s house, and bought the machine. WHile I was there, I noticed a Stihl chainsaw in his garage. I asked him if this was also for sale, and for how much. He told me yes, he would take $40. I knew the real value, so I offered him $40 and took both machines home. The next day I turned around and listed the Stihl chainsaw for $200 back on Craigslist. I had over 10 calls/emails, and sold it that next day for $190. I made a $150 profit within 48 hours. This can be done consistently through Craigslist as long as you are knowledgeable about the products you are buying. If I was able to replicate this resell 6 times, I would have almost reached my $1,000 mark.

5. Re-Sell Used Textbooks

I do this every semester, and generally make between $1500 to $2000. The trick is to buy textbooks from college students at the end of each semester. I usually hang around the book buy-back trailers around any college campus and find the students walking away from the trailers with books still in tow. Campus bookstores will not buy back a book that has not been requested for the next semester, but that book is still valuable. Often times college students are willing to get a fraction of the value for the book because they are so mad they cannot re-sell their book. Once you have purchased these books from the students, you can then turn around and list these books on Ebay, Craigslist, Amazon, or any number of other book retailers. It involves shipping the books, but it is a great way to make some extra cash.

6. Create a Directory Website for Local Businesses

This is an idea that I have been experimenting with, and am excited about for the future. If you can create a directory website for a local niche business, then you can easily sell marketing space on that website to these same local businesses. The key is to ensure that your website ranks well in search engines for the search terms your customers care about. For example, if you build a website around Nashville Wedding Photography, and your site ranks on the first page of all Google search results for that term, then you can easily sell ad space to all Nashville wedding photographers. Depending on your traffic, you can easily charge anywhere from $30 – $200 per month for a business listing. With a large amount of traffic, you could easily reach $1,000 per month.

7. Perform SEO Services for Real Estate Agents

This sounds like a very niche market, but I can guarantee you that if you spend any amount of time as a blogger, or content editor online then you undersand SEO much better than a real estate agent does. However, for them, their livelihood is increasingly dependent on SEO. Internet traffic now drives the largest percentage of home buyers to their prospective homes. A realtor’s website is their golden ticket. If it ranks well for their local area they can easily see their business double or triple from what it had been previously. This is where you come in. You can offer your SEO services to a real estate agent for a monthly fee. This could include submitting their sites to listing directories, writing blog posts, ensuring their site is optimized properly, tagging their pictures with meta tags, and installing SEO software into their website. Even though you may not be an SEO expert, you will be viewed as one by the vast majority of Real Estate Agents.

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Weekly Roundup: Expensive Landscaping Edition

Posted by on Jun 24, 2013 in Gifts for College Students | 10 comments

My wife and I really enjoy having a well kept yard. We enjoy a yard where the grass is mowed, the beds are neatly arranged, the flowers are pruned and orderly, and the beds are freshly mulched each spring. This is a priority for us, and we have built money into our budget to pay for these expenses every year. The biggest expense in maintaining a well kept yard though, is time!

I often do not feel like working in our yard in the evenings when I come home, and I find myself running through blog post ideas as I am mowing our grass. I am great at multi-tasking, but there has to be a balance. A person can only do so many things in one day.

In the end, it comes down to priorities. My wife and I have decided that we are ok to let our yard slip a bit to focus on more income generating tasks (like blogging, and our side businesses). We also enjoy these things, and the freedom/money these extra activities affords us more than compensates for never winning another “yard of the month” sign again…

Here is what went on at Money for College Project as well as with my Yakezie friends. Enjoy!

Money for College Project


My First Father’s Day



How to Negotiate Financial Aid




Yakezie Friends


Edward Antrobus – Blue Collar Money



Funancials – How I Started Investing



On Target Coach – Small Business Week



Debt Roundup – Weekly PF Digest



KNS Financial – Have a Budget Account



Fat Free Finance – Stop Comparing Rent to Mortgage



Mom and Dad Money – Bad for Budget Good for Soul



Stacking Benjamins – Big Drugstore Discounts



Tie The Money Knot – Why Buy Life Insurance Read More