As promised in the last installment of this series, this article will address possible solutions to the common problem of not having enough financial funds for tuition. I will say that this piece was the most challenging because such a complicated problem requires either creative solutions or guidance from other programs that are effective in solving similar issues.
To start, one major solution that stood out to myself and many others was holding a job during college. This is a great solution but fails to take into account the inflation of college tuition alone. Textbooks, food, and housing aren’t even considered yet. Now, to pair a job while in college with scholarships, private loans, and grants is the most ideal. Working brings not only experience, but extra funds to take care of expenses that simply aren’t covered by the listed methods above, such as school supplies or utilities.
However, working while in college disregards our student population that may not be able to work, due to time restraints or ability. So, what then? Naturally, the response is saved funds. Scholarships, personal savings, etc. This can be done on the part of the student or the school. Many programs and schools have college bridge programs that begin from junior year of high school (i.e. QuestBridge) to a student’s entry year of college where systems are set up to help a student succeed financially and academically. These programs, for lack of a better term, help to alleviate some stress that comes from situations such as Jane’s*. But they need to be applied for ahead of time.
So, then this begs the question, what do we do when the need is penultimate? Ideally, this is where private and school loans would come in. There are places that do these exact things, but they require funding, resources, and access. I say it like this because if a school loan were the emergency response, for example, that necessitates funding on behalf of the school and time to set up such a loan program. If private loans are sought as emergency responses, then those require the resources of and access to co-signers or vetted lists where a co-signer isn’t necessary. Some students don’t have co-signers readily available and would need a list of private loans where they can be approved without one, but does this list exist?
If it has been noticed, the recurring theme to answer this problem right now is proactive planning. While that is ideal, it doesn’t consider emergency situations like Jane’s*. The time between funds settling with financial aid offices and payment plans isn’t enough for some students to scrounge up another private loan or cover the gap that needs to be met. What is going to be needed is a community effort to find a creative solution. This solution is going to call for the minds of students, impacted and not, faculty that have seen us come and go, administration who know the inner workings of the university with its resources and limits, and parents who have invaluable wisdom and experience. And quite honestly, I have hope that we will figure it out because we are a leading school in STEM. We can do anything we desire that we set our minds to figure out and solve. As for Jane*, upon publication of this article, she has decided to solve her tuition plight the best she knows how. I wish her all the luck and time that is available.