4 unexpected ways to pay for college

As we know, parental funding of college is on the decline. But because parents overwhelmingly agree that a college degree is very important — somebody has got to pay the piper.

More students are relying on grants a while others are coming up with innovative ways to reduce or minimize the amount of money they pay for a college education. Here are a few ways they are doing it.

Work for it: Traditionally, students go off to college and maybe get a work study job to help pay their tuition, but more often parents are handling the bulk of tuition costs. With more companies offering tuition reimbursement, it is actually possible to work at the mall and have a company pay for your education. Here are a few companies that offer tuition reimbursement:

Apple: Apple offers tuition assistance up to $5,000 for eligible employees in addition to stock options and a 25 percent discount.

Home Depot: Salaried and full-time hourly associates who enroll in college, university or technical schools to obtain a degree can participate in the Tuition Reimbursement Program. The Home Depot has partnerships with five colleges and universities that will give associates a discounted rate. You can also get tuition reimbursement for a school of your choiceas long as your course selection meets the eligibility requirements.

Starbucks: Be a barista and receive $500 to$1,000 a year to apply toward tuition with the company’s tuition reimbursement plan.

UPS: Eligible employees (including eligible part-timers) planning to attend college to further their career within UPS can apply for the Tuition Assistance Program which was launched in 1999.

Go Shopping: This may seem counterintuitive. How can you save for college if you’re shopping? But if there are things you have to buy anyway, why not get money back to pay for school? Upromise by Sallie Mae is free to join and by shopping for everyday purchases through Upromise.com, you earn 5 percent cash back for college. If you use the Upromise World Master Card you earn 10 percent cash back. You can then use your earnings to invest in a 529 plan or other savings account, pay down an eligible Sallie Mae college loan or get a check.

Learn to negotiate: Never has there been a better time to negotiate tuition rates with certain schools. Elite colleges can get away with charging $50,000 per year in tuition, but some private colleges have priced themselves out of the market by aiming that high. The ones that have seen a decline in enrollment — some private colleges have seen as little as 20 percent of students accepted actually attending — are willing to make a deal.

Live in not-so Never Never Land: While many college graduates flock to major metropolitan areas in search of fame and fortune, the ones who head to smaller towns may get a better deal. Programs in several states offer college graduates incentives ranging from lower housing costs to tuition reimbursement for living in small towns. LiveNF in Niagara Falls, LiveMidtown or LiveDowntown in Detroit, Rural Opportunity Zones in Kansas and Nebraska’s Forgiveable Loans Program or the Student Loan Repayment Program all offer a variety benefits to a range of college graduates.

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