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Debt-Free Ways to Pay for School

Bet you can guess the one subject you can’t avoid for long as you prepare for college? That’s right…paying for it.

Gathering the means to fund your education takes foresight, dedication, and lots of preparation—but it can be done! There are countless scholarships, grants, and subsidies available in Utah to qualified candidates seeking a financial solution for college. Let’s review a few of the options you have at your disposal, along with some common questions.

1. Scholarships

What are they?

A scholarship is free money for college that doesn’t need to be repaid, and is available to students who meet the criteria and apply. Some scholarships offer to pay your entire tuition, while many provide a set amount each semester, or a one-time payout to cover a portion of your costs.

What types are available?

There are scholarships for just about everything, offered by a variety of groups, including employers, schools, nonprofits, associations, religious groups, and communities. Some are earned based on merit, and are awarded according to the applicant’s academic record, talents, or accomplishments. Often, scholarships are created with a certain group of people in mind, such as international students, employees, women, or minorities. Many are simply awarded based on proven financial need.

Where do I find them?

The best place to begin your search for potential scholarships is by getting in touch with your college’s financial aid office. There are often school-specific options that you won’t find anywhere else, which narrows the applicant pool. Other options to consider:

  • The scholarship search tool offered by the U.S. Department of Labor
  • Checking with your employer or your parents’ employers
  • Church bulletin boards or clergy
  • Professional and social organizations within your field of study
  • Online federal resources such as
  • Organizations specific to your ethnicity, culture, talents or interests

2. Grants

What are they?

Grants are another form of college financial assistance that generally don’t have to be repaid, so long as you maintain eligibility (more on that later). Like scholarships, grants are offered in a variety of amounts, and can often be combined with other forms of financial aid, so long as the total amount doesn’t exceed your cost of attendance.

What types are available?

There are a plethora of grant options out there, offered by the federal government, state government and your college, as well as by various organizations. The U.S. Department of Education offers a variety of federal grant programs for students pursuing 4-year, 2-year or trade school educations, including:

One major factor to consider when choosing what grants to apply for is whether you will be able to maintain eligibility throughout the program. Make sure that you review the criteria carefully as you apply, and follow the requirements to continue using awarded grants until graduation.

Where do I find them?

Like scholarships, identifying grants that you qualify for takes some research and effort. Most grants are contingent upon your financial need, so you’ll need to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to determine your eligibility. Once you have checked in with your school’s financial aid office, you can visit the following resources to aid you in your search:

Keep in mind that state financial aid typically has limited funding, so it is administered on a first come, first serve basis. Getting your application materials submitted by the deadline is critical to your success in securing a grant.

3. Special Considerations for International Students

If you are considering studying abroad in the U.S., there is financial assistance available to you. Because the process for international students is different than for residents of the U.S., we’ve included resources to help you narrow your search.

As with all financial aid questions, we recommend that you first set an appointment with the financial aid office at your college of choice. They can guide you to resources specific to your situation and area of study. Then review the following resources devoted to students seeking an international education:

The task of paying for college may seem insurmountable, but as you can see, there are plenty of resources available to make it easier. Even better, loans are not your only option! Start early, read criteria carefully, and get your applications in on time, and you might just find yourself pursuing your dream career without the headache of future debt.

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