The price tag on a college education is hefty, which makes it difficult for many students to afford a computer science degree. Unfortunately, computer science majors often choose to finance their studies by borrowing money from the federal government. While it’s possible to tackle your tuition with Stafford Loans, Perkins Loans, and PLUS Loans, the money must be repaid with interest starting six months after graduation. In the Class of 2015, graduates received their degree with an average of $35,000 in student loan debt. This is why loans should only be a secondary option after you’ve maxed out the several other funding areas. The following are four great ways you can comfortably afford your computer science degree without debt.
529 College Saving Plans
If you still have some time before enrolling in your computer science program, a 529 college savings plan may be the perfect fit for you. These plans allow future college students to invest their money in a wide range of mutual funds managed by an investment company. Money in 529 college savings plans can be used to cover tuition, fees, room and board, textbooks, or other supplies at accredited institutions. Be careful because money used before college will incur a 10 percent penalty and become taxable.
Need-Based College Grants
Grants are basically free gifted money given to financially needy students seeking to afford the high costs of post-secondary education. When you’re applying for computer science programs, look for universities that offer grants within their financial aid packages. The federal government and several states also fund college grants usually based on the family’s income. For instance, the Federal Pell Grant is given to disadvantaged students for up to $5,000 a year. You may also qualify for the FSEOG Grant or the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant too.
University and Private Scholarships
Scholarships are another superb option for computer science students to avoid incurred debt. Universities usually offer numerous need and merit-based scholarships to matriculated students for up to full tuition coverage. Contact your prospective computer science department to learn about which scholarships you’re eligible for. Privately funded scholarships are also abundant for computer science majors. For instance, Google provides six scholarships for students looking to become active leaders of computer science. You can also look for scholarships from Microsoft, CompTIA, IEEE, and the National Science Foundation.
Federal Work-Study Programs
More than 3,400 colleges across the United States participate in the Federal Work-Study (FWS) program to provide financially needy students with money via part-time employment. Students can work on-campus or off-campus at affiliated non-profit organizations to pay for their college education. Students are paid at least minimum wage, but some make enough to cover their entire tuition bill. Work-study is convenient because shifts are arranged around each student’s course schedule. Computer science majors can also gain career experience by working in their university’s IT department, computer labs, or library.
Computer science programs may be expensive, but the investment is worth it. According to Forbes magazine, computer science majors graduate with the second highest starting salary behind engineering at $60,000 each year! You can use your computer science background for in-demand jobs, such as web designer, computer programmer, software engineer, game developer, network administrator, database manager, etc. However, you must make sure you reap the best ROI possible from your computer science degree by using the above funding options to pay for your tuition.