Pursuing the career of your dreams through higher education is one of the surest and safest routes to success that many espouse. However, given that college costs have risen by 25% in the last decade alone, more people are becoming wary of attending at all. In fact, 70% of college students say that affordability has a huge impact on their enrollment plans. The weight of the pandemic and growing college costs have even resulted in a 20% drop in high schoolers who plan to attend a four-year school.

That said, many of the most in-demand and high-paying jobs in states, like Maine, require college degrees. Until 2026, some of the careers with the best-projected job growth include being registered nurses and software developers—both of which call for bachelor’s degrees at the minimum. As such, it’s important for would-be college students to know that there are ways to pursue and finance their higher education. Here are some of the most popular funding options to consider:

Scholarship opportunities

Many think that scholarships are purely based on academic excellence. But, in reality, scholarships may be based on other factors aside from grades. For instance, in Maine, the Acadia East Campground Outdoor Recreation & Tourism Scholarship specifically targets students pursuing degrees in environmental studies and the like. Meanwhile, nationwide, the Evans Scholars Foundations offers full scholarships to those who’ve been golf caddies for at least two years. Admittedly, many scholarships do require a minimum grade, but many of them are actually attainable averages. Since students have to be the ones to search and apply for scholarships, do this early. This way, you can submit the necessary applications like the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and other additional forms ahead of time.

Work-study programs

A work-study program is a federal initiative that helps students earn money to pay for their schooling. According to Student Aid, most of the jobs that this program connects students with are centered on community service or related to their course. Usually, work-study programs offer part-time work. But, in some cases, full-time work can also be provided. How much you earn depends on factors like skills required and your financial need. Aside from this, the frequency of salary is pretty stable. Participants are paid by the hour, with the salary being paid directly at least once a month. To sign up for a work-study program, simply visit your school’s financial aid office. Here, you’ll be guided on what to submit and how to find a placement.

Federal student loans

Many people are understandably cautious around student loans. After all, student loan debt is growing six times faster than the country’s economy. That said, it still remains an accessible funding option for millions. If you opt for a student loan, do go for a federal student loan over a private one. Unlike the latter, the former offers significant advantages. A feature about student loans by AskMoney, outlines some recent benefits such as suspending student loan payments in the wake of the pandemic, loan forgiveness programs, and income-driven repayment plans. This makes it relatively easier to catch up on payments even years later. Since defaulting on payments is another reason why student loan debt grows, do aim for student loan payments that won’t be more than 10% of your monthly after-tax income.

Education grants

College grants are some of the most under-tapped options nationwide. A 2018 study even found that billions of dollars are left unclaimed in federal Pell Grant funds. To avoid missing this opportunity, make sure to fill up and renew your FAFSA and looks for local grants. In Maine, FAME administers the Maine State Grant Programs to students of all ages. As a needs-based program, your family contributions must not exceed 7,000. Aside from this, you must be attending a school inside Maine to qualify. If awarded, such grants can even be renewed for the following year. Since grants, like scholarships, don’t need to be paid back, they’re a great way to pay without incurring debt.

Of course, these are just a few of the most common ways to cover your college costs. Depending on your personal circumstances, college of choice, and prospective degree, you may find that you need one or several of these funding options. Though it may require quite a bit of elbow grease and patience to pursue multiple avenues, putting together your college funds can be done.

Article specially written for destinationoccupation.com by Alina Turner

Alina Turner is an online blogger with a passion for covering Maine. She hopes that her articles provide her local and national readers with good insight into what is going on in the state. Her main goal is to provide positive news and features. In her free time, she is an avid reader and chess player.