9 ways to pay for your green degree

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Source: GLOBE Foundation

You've gone to your local university site, searched our directory at http://www.greendegreedirectory.com/ or visited a nearby campus and found the green educational program of your dreams, but your cheers are dampened by that big tuition price tag.

It shouldn't be this way. We all remember when the President spoke of putting 'science back in its rightful place', green job creation and putting the U.S. as leaders in college graduation rates - but the funding simply isn't enough.

As parents and students, we're going to have to find creative, cooperative-based ways to fund our green education and with tuition costs and environmental and social degradation steadily increasing time is of the essence.  Here are 9 ways to help reduce the costs for your green education:

Traditional

1. FAFSA - Yeah, yeah. We've all heard of filling out the FAFSA but if you're seeking an associate, bachelor or master's degree heading over to the http://www.fafsa.ed.gov website is a first smart step.

BUT, did you know that in addition to the Pell Grant and student loans offered through U.S. funding, the SMART grant provides up to $4,000 annually and includes approved fields of study including ecology, natural resources and conservation, atmospheric sciences, recycling technology, environmental science, life sciences, environmental biology, environmental chemistry, hydrology and water resource science, earth sciences, ocean sciences, nutrition sciences and almost all areas of engineering?

Unfortunately, sustainability majors have not been added as of the 2010 approved fields list but may be approved under the 'multidisciplinary' field. It is important to note that it is up to the college to determine the use of the SMART grant so contact them to find out if they use it…and if they don't - ask for it!

2. Program-Specific Scholarships - Many universities (and some training and certificate offering institutions) offer scholarships for green degree seekers. For example, the University of Wisconsin's Sustainable Management program offers a scholarship for enrolled students and the International Facilities Management Association offers financial aid for their non-traditional students.

3. National Scholarships - There are a ton of these available through sites Fastweb and CollegeBoard but keep in mind applying for these takes a lot of time, perseverance and patience.

4. Private Loans - You can get these through your bank but are really a last step that is not recommended due to enormously high credit criteria and interest rates. If you still feel you need to take out a private loan you can try alternative organizations like www.lendingclub.com and www.prosper.com where kind investors may be able to lower your interest rates.

5. Employer Tuition Assistance - Many employers offer 50 to 100% tuition reimbursement programs for their employees. Ask your employer if they such a program and if they don't get a group of your co-workers to demand it! Here a list of such employers that do: Johnson & Johnson, IBM, Greatbatch Inc., Disney,

Non-Traditional

6. Social Network-Based Funding - Social network based funding allows you to create a profile with information such as your green major, financial situation and career goals - like a 'virtual scholarship application.'

What really makes this option appealing is that it takes less time to fill out than traditional scholarship processes, your credit in not used as a criteria and allows you to share your profile link with friends, friends of friends, family and colleagues through your website or social network like Facebook or Myspace. Here are some good social networking-based sites to check out:

  • Greennote.com - GreenNote can be used for anyone seeking funding for green educational programs (so non-traditional students this is may be for you). Once you register you can post your picture and profile to allow others to get to know you and hopefully sponsor you! One slight drawback is that the site requires students to pay a $20 fee by PayPal to register.
  • Scholarmatch.org - Scholarmatch takes a little bit longer to register for but may yield great benefits as they use the information to really pump up your virtual profile! This service is also free for students but when I filled out the application the date of birth drop-box limits the user to those born in 1980 or younger - so age may be a requirement (to non-traditional rebels out there I was born in 1975 and filled it out anyway).
  • SponsorMyDegree.com - SponsorMyDegree is a free resource for students and has the shortest registration process, allows you to post anonymously and allows you to link up with your Facebook page to help get the word out.

7. Tuition Discounts - You know the old adage, 'if you don't ask…you'll never get it.' It's already a no if you don't ask so once your financial aid is filled out you can contact your financial aid officer, advise them of your economic hardship and ask for a discount - some universities do it so it's worth a try.

8. Tuition Free Degrees - Sweden, South Africa and other countries have had extremely low cost or tuition-free programs in the past (even for international students) but as of the summer of 2011 tuition-free havens like Sweden have started to charge (at similar rates of U.S. programs unfortunately).

9. Used Books - You can really take a bite out of the cost of books by getting them used through your campus bookstore, borrowing them from your local library and going to places like BetterWorldBooks.com They provide information on if the book is available at your local library, alternative competitive rates from the open market and when I went there to order some of my textbooks I saved $5 - $50 per book in some cases!

Founded in 2010, the Green Degree Directory provides worldwide sustainability focused degrees, workshops, courses and training.

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