Sunday, 15 September 2013

Frugal Student Life - hints and tips for students, boarders and parents - Education

Hey! And welcome to part one of my blog series on living frugally whilst studying!

To give a bit of background, I am an 18 year old student who lives in a student boarding house with 40 others. I have been here for three months now and have picked up quite a few hints and tips to help make my tiny bank account stretch, and still be able to live quite comfortably!

Today I will be focusing on education and the fees associated.
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1. Choosing your institution. 
Before choosing your study options, the biggest impact upon the overall course fees will be the type of  institution which you are attending. Educational institutions can generally be split into two streams: public or private. In Australia, due to our level of income taxation, public educational organisations such as WEA, TAFE and public Universities, are often heavily subsidised by the government. In turn, the student usually only owes a fraction of the overall fees, or even owes nothing at all! Also, there is the option of using government loan agreements to put off paying your student fees until you are employed and financially capable, but I shall explore this further soon.
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For these reasons, private educational institutions are generally more expensive, however, may have advantage over public institutions in terms of resources and variety. I must say, however, in my experience, public educational institutions are quite well established and supported in these areas anyway.
So, its time to make your first call: public or private?

2. Choosing your course.
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The course you select will also heavily affect the fees you will have to pay. As a general rule in public educational institutions, the more in demand a particular skill set is in the community, the cheaper that course will be. Courses are arranged into 4 'bands' according to public necessity, which then affects the government subsidies. For example, in Australia, nurses are currently a national priority (the highest band) and so the course fees for a Bachelor of Nursing at a public university, like the University of Newcastle, are currently heavily subsidised by our government, so students only have to pay about $5000 per 8 subjects. This compares to student fees of about $10 000 for a Bachelor of Laws or a Bachelor of Economics.

Other things to take into account are the mode of delivery and the resources required. In terms of mode of delivery, there is no general rule to guide you, as it depends upon the individual course requirements. For example, a course which is purely online may be cheaper to complete than attending that course in person. However, online courses which require you to organise the reception of physical materials or a student placement, may end up costing much more than attending a face to face program. It really depends on what you want to study. However, there are some excellent courses delivered online completely free of charge, which are definitely worth checking out! Websites like Coursera offer an enormous variety of free online learning programs. Scroll down to the end of this article for a list of great online learning websites.

3. Apprenticeships and Traineeships
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If you are looking for a way to combine work and study, then an apprenticeship or a traineeship could be perfect for you! These are educational and employment agreements between an organisation and a student which results in a paid qualification for the student! The structure of the course is individual to each organisation, but usually involves working in your preferred industry either part or full time, whilst undertaking related self-directed study at the same time. You are paid for the work you do, with your educational fees taken out of your wage. Most of these qualifications are recognised nation-wide and usually do not require ongoing commitment to your trainer post-qualification.
Apprenticeships and Traineeships are offered across a range of industries such as childcare, tourism, retail, hospitality, engineering, transport and construction, just to name a few!
Head over to the Australian Apprenticeships website for more information. Or, for our American and Canadian followers, head over to Apprenticeships USA for more information.

4. Financial Assistance
Regardless of what institution you enrol in, you are usually able to apply for financial assistance through grants, scholarships and student loan schemes, either through your institution, local community organisations, banks and other financial institutions or the government.
Scholarships are generally monetary payments made towards either your educational fees or living requirements. Scholarships can be partial or full fee payment substitutes, or be awarded in set amounts, such as $2000. They are usually funded by your educational institution, private citizens, local community organisations like Rotary, or even by local, state and federal council and government. There are usually hundreds of scholarships offered to all students, so it is really worthwhile checking out your institution's website, and websites of local community organisations.
Grants are generally sums of money presented to fund a project or venture, such as an academic study. Grants can be particularly useful if your studies offer large-scale or uncommon research opportunities, such as overseas travel. Once again, these are offered by a range of institutions, organisations and representatives, so it's best to check out local resources.
Student loans are probably the most widely used form of financial support. Generally government-funded, payments for your education are paid partially or in full by an organisation, which you then repay in installments as agreed. In Australia, there are four main types of student loans: HECS-HELP, FEE-HELP, SA-HELP and OS-HELP. Whilst each is for different students or different courses of study, they all are agreements between the Australian Government and students, where the government will pay in part or full your educational fees, which you then pay back as tax once you are employed and earning above $40 000 p.a. (roughly). Check out StudyAssist for more information.
You can also make similar loan agreements with other financial institutions, such as your bank.

Also, check with your educational institution to see if they income-based fee agreements. For example, TAFE NSW offers discounted fees for people in low-income brackets.

5. Educational resources
Lastly, we come to the resources required for study, such as textbooks and electronics. My biggest piece of advice is LOOK AT ALL OF YOUR OPTIONS!!! Textbooks particularly can be incredibly expensive bought off the shelf, brand new, anywhere up to $500 per book. So before committing to a purchase like that, first consider whether or not you really need to own it. Often, textbooks are only recommended study material and may have no specific affect upon your overall education. In this case, consider the internet or apps, like Khan Academy or Kindle to access this extra reading material, often for free. If you want/must buy a textbook or an electronic device, consider buying second hand on websites such as eBay, Gumtree or Craigslist, where they may only cost half of the original price, even when they appear to be brand new! The same goes for second-hand bookstores and garage sales.
Finally, the best place to head to for completely free resources is your institute's library! The library will be a treasure trove of textbooks, studies, reports and electronic media geared specifically towards the courses that the institution offers, and is guaranteed to have copies of all required or compulsory reading material. Best of all, membership is usually either free or comes automatically with your enrollment!
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Great online learning resources!!!

So there you have part one in my blog series on living frugally as or with a student. Tune in next week for a discussion and tips for boarding and living expenses!
Let me know if any of these help, or if you have any other great frugal student tips, I would love to hear them!

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