There is no way around the fact that tertiary education is expensive. If you're at that crossroad where you are just about to leave high school, got into university, but know you'll need help paying tuition, finding money for transportation, boarding,and other expenses, then this article is just for you.
Keep reading for some practical steps for financing higher education.
Apply for Scholarships
There are tonnes of scholarships up for grabs every year. You don't have to have the very best grades to nab them, but doing well academically typically helps. A simple google search for “Jamaican scholarships 2019” which yield many results. Sift through the ones that apply to you and make a note of their deadlines. You can't get them if you don't apply so don't be discouraged. Just do it, you never know what can happen.
Scholarships are also available at the university you've chosen. If you didn't bag one before you started, you can still search the university's website for them. You can even go to universities abroad for free! If you check out the OAS Scholarships, you will see that you can study in various countries for free. Usually you have to pay airfare but tuition is paid for and you get a stipend depending on the programme.
Secure the Bag While Going to School
While this is as exhausting as it sounds, many people opt to either work part-time and go to school full-time, work full-time and go to school part-time, another suitable combination. You can apply for a job on campus or elsewhere. Campus jobs are usually on a part-time basis, but many universities do offer employment to their students in other capacities. The benefit of campus jobs is that you often are allowed to pick your hours based on your class schedule. The downside is that you won't make enough money to cover tuition, but can still offset expenses.
But be careful... You have to be aware of whether or not your program will allow you to do both successfully and adjust. For example, if you have labs during the day, it would be impossible to hold down a 9-5 unless you have a lenient boss (these are usually found with campus jobs). Call centres, while they have a terrible reputation (for understandable reasons), are usually very flexible with scheduling and so you won't have to miss class or work. These jobs can help you pay off tuition and offset other costs.
Take a Gap Year
Many people who have difficulty paying tuition find that taking a gap year to work and save money is beneficial. Of course, this is dependent on you getting a job that pays enough money for you to cover the cost of commute, lunch, and other necessities while still saving money for university. One way to secure a job is to apply to work there in the summer, because sometimes they will keep you on. You can also use your gap year to resit subjects. For example, if you're trying to get into the science programme at UWI and you need an extra Unit of CAPE. Instead of doing prelim, which will require you to stay a minimum of 4 years, do the CAPE units instead, it's cheaper in both the short and the long term. Gap years can also occur when you've already started.
Work and Travel
Many university students swear by this method. This is only available for people who have already started university. Typically there are persons on campus promoting their own work and travel companies. The responsibility is on you to do your research about each of them and find which one is the best fit. The upfront cost can be daunting but if you can find upwards on $1000USD then you'll typically be able to pay off tuition and have pocket money for the following school year. The jobs range from janitorial/housekeeping to working in the fast food industry to working at amusement parts. These job sites are usually in the United States.
The Jamaica Values and Attitudes (JAMVAT) Programme is a popular choice for paying tuition for those who need it. It's a government programme that covers 30% of tuition (that shouldn't exceed $350,000JMD) for the year. You can learn more about the programme and the application process here. It's one of the few scholarship programmes that make financial need a primary concern. Basically, you will work a certain amount of hours at an organization of your choosing (within reason) and in exchange the government offsets some of burden of your tuition.
Apply to the Student Loan Bureau
Wait, don't close the tab hear me out. While it's not ideal to have to take out loans sometimes that's what you'll have to do. Especially if your GPA is below what scholarship applications are asking for (still apply), can't afford work and travel fees and the job hunt is futile or maybe your programme is too demanding and working and going to school is driving you insane. With all those cards stacked against you but you still want that degree, taking out the loan may be the option available. Maybe you don't even need the full amount from student loan or need it for all 3 or 4 years of your programme but just remember it is an option.
I know you don't want your face appearing as a delinquent in the newspaper. To avoid this, make sure you're in contact with the loan bureau if you can't make a payment. Make sure you and your guarantors have a plan to make the monthly payments when the time comes and if you can, pay off more than is recommended so that you finish paying more quickly. Other institutions offer education loans that you can look into. What some students do is save up for work and travel for their final year and pay off a chunk of their student loan when they return.
Not being able to afford tertiary education isn't anything to be ashamed of. If you believe that you need the degree, go for it. One of the best ways to save money at university is doing well. Failed courses and extra years will be costly.
For more tips on personal finance, saving money in college and getting good deals you can check out my blog Goody on a Budget.