Are you losing sleep because the deadline for paying college tuition is fast approaching and you don't have the money to pay the bill? Maybe you spent more than expected on books and necessities for your dorm room, or maybe you thought you would make more money working over the summer? Whatever the reason, there's no need to panic. Here are four options for how to handle a last-minute funding shortfall.
1. Get on a Payment Plan
Not all colleges expect you to pay their tuition in a lump sum. Many schools work with students to space their payments out in monthly installments over the semester or even the calendar year. Sometimes schools charge more for monthly payments, an enrollment fee or a down payment for a percentage of your tuition fees. Some work with external companies that provide this kind of financing. Contact your financial aid office to learn about your school's options.
One of the benefits of payment plans are that they give you time, which may allow you to find a job during the school year to help make up your shortfall.
If your parents are helping you pay for school, payment plans also make it easier for them to contribute because they can allocate a certain portion of their monthly budget toward the bill rather than paying tuition fees in a lump sum.
2. Contact the Financial Aid Office
Just because your school already provided you with a financial aid package doesn't mean they can't help you a little more. Many schools have scholarships and emergency financial aid available for students who have unmet financial need or are experiencing financial difficulties. They might be able to suggest grants to apply for, help you find a work-study or campus job or find additional aid for you.
Think of your school's financial aid officers as your allies. The better they know you and your financial situation, the more options they may have should you need help paying tuition fees.
3. Apply for Private Student Loans
Private student loans are an option, and most lenders will take applications year round. Private student loans can help bridge the gap between what you owe and what you can pay out of pocket. Even if you've already borrowed money from a private lender this year, you might still be eligible to apply for more funds.
Private student loans can offer lower interest rates than credit cards, especially when the average student credit card interest rate starts at 13.99 percent and goes up to 22.62 percent. Many schools don't accept credit cards as a method for paying college tuition. Those that do often charge an additional processing or convenience fee, which is usually a percentage of the transaction. If you add that fee to the high interest rates that you'll be charged on your balance, then it makes tuition much more expensive.
You also have the option to defer your private student loans, which means you won't have to start paying them back until after you graduate or your enrollment drops below half-time. While convenient, you should consider making even small payments while you're in school to lower the overall cost of your education. You can apply for private student loans with an easy and straightforward online application and a credit check. Students may have the option to apply with a creditworthy cosigner. Adding a creditworthy cosigner may improve likelihood for loan approval and may lower the interest rate.
4. Apply for Scholarships
If you haven't applied for scholarships yet, it's never too late to do so. After all, college is one of the only times when strangers and organizations will give you free money and help pay tuition fees so you can follow your dreams. There are scholarships out there for all types of students, for different stages of your degree and with rolling deadlines.
Even if classes are in session, there are still scholarships that you can apply for. For more information about scholarships you qualify for, contact your school and look online using a free scholarship search tool.
Don't Sweat It
While having a financial shortfall when it comes to paying college tuition can feel scary, remember you have options. The important thing is to be proactive. Reach out to your financial aid office and speak to your parents so that you can work together to come up with a strategy that will get you help paying tuition fees.