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Strategies for financing your higher education

Hellen Njeri @PeopleDailyKE

Working students who are also contemplating obtaining a university degree as well as the long-term unemployed who feel the need to retrain themselves in a different profession are typically faced with the challenge of financing the increasingly steep cost of higher education that usually exceeds whatever limited financial resources they currently have available to them.

Tuition fees for graduate programmes can easily run into the tens of thousands of shillings or dollars per year – not to mention schooling accommodation and materials costs – numerous programmes and methods for financing an education fortunately exist to help the aspiring student obtain the education they desire or require. Here are some of the more common ways of financing an education.

1. Need-based educational grants

Applicants who can demonstrate a substantial financial need can often obtain an educational grant from the financial aid office of their targeted university or training facility.

Some educational grants are also available from other sources, depending on your qualifications. The main advantage of grants is that they generally do not have to be repaid, although qualifying can be challenging, especially if one has some income.

2. Merit-based scholarships

Exceptionally high-performing students are often awarded  educational financial aid in the form of scholarships and do not have to be repaid.

Qualifying for such scholarships can depend on a student’s high school performance or on their scores on commonly accepted scholastic aptitude tests. Also other major determining factors are the poor background or disadvantaged students with good grades.

3. Internships and apprenticeships

On the job training opportunities are often available in the form of internship for white collar jobs and apprenticeships for blue collar jobs.  These educational programmes are typically run half-time during the school year to accommodate the need to attend classes.

Although usually low paying, they allow students to obtain valuable hands-on experience in their chosen field and may even result in a job offer from the company they participated in the programme with.

4. Private loans

Private educational loans can be obtained by soliciting them from your friends and family, as well as from various other private sources.

Such loans can usually be arranged at either fixed or variable interest rates, and they typically require a financially sound co-signer and a credit background check if the lender is not familiar or comfortable with your credit history.  Money and financial discipline is key to this formula and one wrong act can lead to damaged relationships or even legal implications.

5. Students subsidised loans

These kinds of credit are guaranteed by the government institutions such as Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) and can be used to pay tuition and other educational expenses.

The subsidised loans require financial need to be demonstrated and do not accrue interest while you are in school. However, once you are out of the institution, one is required to honour the agreement and failure may lead to Credit Reference Bureau listing.

6. Direct  loans

These type of loans attract interest and hence require precision and tight academic schedule of study to reduce the duration of repayment. To minimise the interest and maximise on the benefit do thorough research to identify the financial institution with the lowest interest.

Also ensure the money is transferred directly to the institution to avoid being diverted to other needs even though they might be urgent.  You may consider having a separate account just to finance your education. Visiting your bank regularly and proper scrutiny of your bank statements will ensure you are aware of any hidden costs.

7. Internet fund-raising

Many people would hesitate to call up friends and family and ask for money, even if it were for a genuine cause. But that shyness seems to fall away when people use a website to make their request. Crowdfunding sites allow people to set up campaign pages to raise finance for projects.

These are generally businesses seeking finance to expand or start trading, and in many cases “investors” will get paid interest in return for their cash, or are offered shares in the enterprise. The projects are simply appeals for cash, which could be to pay for anything from specialist medical treatments to school fees, weddings or even holidays.

You can begin by telling your “moving” story before introducing the fees part including uploading pictures of the school, teachers and other necessary material. Destitute and less fortunate stories are usually more appealing.

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