JB Pritzker, Governor, State of Illinois

Alternative Ways to Pay for College

In addition to traditional financial aid resources, there are alternative financing options. Among them may be payment plans through your college, reimbursement through your employer or your parent’s employer, home equity loans and lines of credit through private lenders and 529 plans through your state or federal government. Other ways to help finance college are mentioned below:

  • Look for colleges that offer a tuition reduction to alumni or siblings. If you have a sister or brother attending at the same time, the college may reduce your tuition and fees. The same may be true if you go to the same school as your mom or dad.
  • Choose a college that offers a four-year "locked-in" tuition rate. A guaranteed rate for four years may help you to plan more efficiently.
  • If you took Advanced Placement (AP) courses and exams in high school, consider choosing a college that offers the most AP credit toward a degree. In some instances, if you’ve done well in the AP program you can gain a semester or more of academic credit.
  • The College Level Examination Program (CLEP) can reduce the number of credit hours a returning adult student may need to complete by granting college credit for work experience. The fewer courses needed for degree completion, the less money needed to finance the program.
  • Colleges may offer reduced tuition during the summer session. You may be able to complete required courses during the summer for a fraction of the cost charged during the regular academic year.
  • Accelerated degree programs can help you complete a traditional four-year degree in less time. Such a program may also combine an undergraduate degree with a graduate degree in a reduced timeframe.
  • Many colleges offer a "flat rate" of tuition for full-time study. You can maximize the value of this by taking the maximum number of courses you can while still performing well in each. For example, using a "flat rate" fee, taking 18 credit hours may cost the same as taking 12 credit hours.
  • You may save money by living with your parents and commuting to college, or by living in an apartment instead of an on-campus residence hall (dormitory).
  • Although military service isn't for everyone, it's a way to help pay for college. The U.S. Armed Forces, the State of Illinois, and the federal government offer many programs to help students in paying for higher education. Contact a local military recruiter or chain of command for more information if you're interested in joining the armed forces.