**This is part of our series where we answer Frequently Asked Questions I receive. Because of the emotion often tied to these questions, i’ve nicknamed them ‘Freaking Out Questions’. Today’s question: Besides borrowing money, what are some other ways I can pay for school?**
Borrowing money for school is easy – and that’s a major problem for many. Dr. Henry Cloud has a saying “Easy, Hard or Hard, Easy” – meaning that there are two ways to go through life: Doing the easy things now and then the hard things later. Or, do the hard things now and easy things later.
Student loans are the ‘path of least resistance’ by a long shot. They are the ultimate ‘easy, hard’. You truly only have to sign your name now and you’re done. The ‘hard’ part of that equation is well documented.
What if we moved student loans from the easiest route, to the ‘last resort’? What other options are there? This isn’t a complete list, but here are 10 creative ways to get through schooling without debt:
Save ahead of time
For most reading this, it’s probably too late. But for everything in life, this is always the best option. If it’s too late for this option, that’s ok – but let’s start a plan for the next few large expenses in your life: Getting married, new car, buying a home, retirement, your children’s college.
Participate in a Ministry Residency
Denver Seminary’s Ministry Residency program is a great way to get tuition paid internships from 10-25 hours a week while gaining real life ministry experience. Find out more here.
Cash flowing your expenses is the best way to pay for anything, including school. The total costs of school come in larger lump sums during the semester, but those can be spread out throughout the year. A couple keys for working while you’re in school:
a.) You can also work extra jobs/hours during the 20 weeks a year where there aren’t any classes. Take advantage of these time and you’ll stockpile a large pile of cash for school.
b.) Studies show “students who work ten to nineteen hours a week actually have higher GPAs on average than students who don’t hold jobs while in school.”
c.) Most employers are open to flexible scheduling (around classes).
d.) Jobs nobody wants to do usually pay better.
e.) Certain seasonal jobs (roofing for example) work really well around school schedules and pay really well.
Jobs that don’t pay by the hour (commission based for example) can be a great way to work around a school job and earn a significantly higher dollar per hour.
There are hundreds of small (and occasionally large) scholarships available. There has been a lot published on this subject, so I won’t go into detail here beside to say 1) Don’t pay for services to get access to scholarships 2) Apply for them all 3) The dollar per hour return on your time for applying is often very good.
Pick a School based on price
While we at Denver Seminary truly believe in the quality and value of a theological education from Denver Seminary, the reality is if you’ve been given a choice between similar institutions and one is significantly cheaper (due to grants or specific scholarships), that is probably where you should attend. The value of one institution versus another is overvalued in academia, and undervalued in the public sector.
Options for free room and board
There are a couple of programs available where you can live on site with a ministry (like Denver Rescue Mission) and they will cover your room and board. This can eliminate over 8-15k in average living expenses.
Pace of education
Many people over the years have cash flowed their way through their education by adjusting their class load based on time and money available. The risk is that life will get crowded and you may not finish your education.
Fundraising some of your tuition can be a great learning experience. There are many successful business leaders who share a commitment to debt free living. I believe that if you went out and shared your vision of getting your theological education and committing to do that without debt, they would support that vision.
Many Churches need help in areas like children’s ministry, youth or college ministry, or technology. Denver Seminary has a program where if your church pays 40% of your tuition, you can get a 10% overall discount in tuition. What if you offered to work Sunday mornings on the technology team for six hours and two additional hours for rehearsals (eight hours a week total) and instead of the church paying you $12 an hour they contributed that toward your tuition. That with the 10% tuition discount would cover over half your annual tuition costs. Not bad for Sunday morning and one night a week.
This is a partial list, but I hope it’s a spark of inspiration that you CAN get a world class theological education without a large debt burden. With further questions, feel free to shoot me an email.