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Overcoming Financial Barriers to Higher Education: Tips and Scholarship Opportunities for Students

Updated: Apr 25, 2023

As the cost of higher education continues to rise, many parents and students are finding it increasingly difficult to make that choice. While University & college is not the most appropriate choice for everyone, to forgo the opportunity because of cost is heartbreaking. In 2023, with the challenges of high inflation globally, the challenges of financing a university education have only intensified, leaving many families struggling to find ways to make their child’s dreams of higher education a reality.


According to The College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for a four-year degree at a public university in the United States is over $10,000 per year, while the average cost for a private university is over $35,000 per year. When you factor in additional expenses like room and board, textbooks, and other fees, the cost of a college education can easily surpass $100,000. A report by the Sutton Trust found that in the United Kingdom, university tuition fees have risen significantly in recent years, with many students facing debts of over £50,000 after graduation. Similarly, in Australia, the average cost of a bachelor's degree can range from AUD $18,000 to AUD $42,000 per year. To make matters worse, many families are facing economic uncertainty due to the ongoing effects left over from the COVID-19 pandemic. The job market is unstable, and many people are struggling to make ends meet. This makes it even more difficult to save for college and pay for the expenses associated with higher education.



According to recent surveys, there has been a noticeable shift in the number of students who are opting for alternative paths rather than pursuing a university education, attributed to the rising cost of higher education and the financial burden it places on families. In the United States, a survey conducted by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center found that college enrollment dropped by 2.5% in 2020, the largest decline in a decade. The survey also found that community colleges, which tend to be more affordable, experienced a larger decline in enrollment than four-year universities. Similarly, in the United Kingdom, a report by the Higher Education Policy Institute found that the number of students attending university has declined for the first time in five years. The report cited the rising cost of tuition fees as a contributing factor to this trend. In Australia, a survey by the Grattan Institute found that the number of students choosing to attend university has plateaued in recent years, after a period of rapid growth. This survey also found that many students are opting for alternative pathways such as vocational education and training. These surveys demonstrate that the rising cost of higher education is causing many students to consider alternative pathways rather than pursuing a university degree.


Despite these challenges, there are steps that parents and students can take to support their education. One of the most important things is to start saving early. A study by Sallie Mae found that families who save for college are more likely to enroll in and complete a degree program than those who do not. Even if you can only afford to put a small amount of money aside each month, it can add up over time and make a big difference in your ability to pay for college. Also, there are numerous scholarship opportunities available for students. In the United States, for example, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can help students access federal grants and loans. Private scholarships are also available through organizations like the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, which awards scholarships based on academic achievement. In the United Kingdom, there are several government-funded scholarships available for students from low-income backgrounds, including the Access to Learning Fund and the Disabled Students' Allowance. Similarly, in Australia, the government offers the Higher Education Loan Program, which provides financial assistance to eligible students.


Some of our clients have approached us with the idea of moving home to gain access to local student loan opportunities. In general, these loans can provide a valuable opportunity for students to pursue their education and improve their future prospects. They are a great way of getting into school to build that future, and over the years have proven to do just that, however, the recent loan forgiveness headlines in the US, show that there is also a dark side to taking out debt. The burden of debt can be challenging to manage, particularly in an uncertain economy. One of the main difficulties is the amount of debt that many young people pile up. The rising cost of education means that many have to take out substantial loans to cover their tuition fees, textbooks, and other expenses associated with attending college or university. In major cities like New York, London, and Toronto, for example, increased rent costs mean room and board are shockingly high. So the debt can be overwhelming, especially for those who do not secure a high-paying job after graduation. Another concern with student loans is the repayment terms. After University, many find themselves struggling to make their monthly payments, particularly if they have high-interest rates or have taken out private loans with less favorable terms than government loans. The repayment process can be long and arduous, sometimes taking decades to pay off the full amount owed. Also, student loans can limit an individual's financial options, making it difficult for them to achieve other goals, such as buying a home, starting a business, or saving for retirement. This can be particularly frustrating for those who are working hard to establish themselves financially but find that their student loan debt is holding them back.


International students pay an even bigger burden to travel to study. In our practice, we have helped students find sources of funding from several different sources. A few of the ways that international students have secured scholarships to fund their education from different Universities around the world are:

  1. Merit-Based Scholarships: Many universities and colleges around the world offer merit-based scholarships to international students based on their academic achievements, such as their GPA or test scores. These scholarships often cover a portion or all of the tuition fees for the program. Check with the university about all the scholarship opportunities based on merit if your child has been accepted with good grades.

  2. Need-Based Scholarships: Some scholarships are awarded based on financial need. These scholarships are designed to help students who would otherwise struggle to afford the cost of tuition, fees, and living expenses. There are many universities around the world, that offer need-based scholarships event to international students.

  3. Country-Specific Scholarships: Many countries offer scholarships specifically for international students from certain countries. For example, the Australian government offers scholarships to international students from the Asia-Pacific region through the Australia Awards program. So speak to the consulate of the country of the University you have been accepted to, the scholarship could be based on your citizenship.

  4. Sports Scholarships: International students who are skilled athletes may be able to secure sports scholarships to fund their education. These scholarships are typically awarded based on the student's athletic ability and can cover tuition fees, accommodation, and other expenses.

  5. Private Organizations and Foundations: Private organizations and foundations around the world also offer scholarships to international students. These organizations may have specific eligibility criteria, such as a particular field of study, country of origin, or academic achievement. There are numerous private organizations and foundations around the world that offer scholarships to international students. Families can research and apply to these and other scholarship programs to help fund their education. To get you started, here are a few examples to consider:

    • The Fulbright Program is a prestigious scholarship program sponsored by the U.S. government that provides funding for international students to study, research, or teach in the United States. The program also offers opportunities for U.S. citizens to study, research, or teach abroad.

    • The Rotary Foundation offers Global Grants to support international students studying in fields related to peace and conflict resolution, disease prevention and treatment, water and sanitation, maternal and child health, basic education and literacy, and economic and community development.

    • The Commonwealth Scholarships and Fellowships Plan is an international program that provides scholarships to students from Commonwealth countries to study in other Commonwealth countries. The program aims to promote cultural exchange and strengthen educational links between Commonwealth countries.

    • The Erasmus+ Program is a European Union initiative that provides funding for students, teachers, and other educational staff to study or train abroad in participating European countries. The program also supports cooperation between European universities and businesses.

    • The Chinese Scholarship Council is a non-profit organization that offers scholarships to international students to study in China at all levels of education. The program supports the development of education and cultural exchange between China and other countries.

Paying for higher education in 2023 can be an incredibly difficult task that requires careful planning and preparation. However, with the right strategies in place and by taking advantage of scholarship opportunities, students can offset some of the costs associated with higher education. Saving early, applying for financial aid, and asking smart questions about what opportunities are available to attend the right institution for your child can also help make college more affordable. Many of the scholarships listed above go unapplied and after all the careful planning and research that goes into your child applying to the right school, it is a shame when I hear that families have forgone the opportunity based on finances.


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