6 ways you can pay for teaching school

three diverse students smiling outside out building
three diverse students smiling outside out building
kendall upton

Written and reported by:
Kendall Upton
Staff Writer

It’s probably the first question you ask yourself when thinking about getting a teaching degree—how am I going to pay for it? Getting any degree may seem financially insurmountable, but there are numerous reasons why a degree can be a wise investment in your future. The good news is that there are a ton of ways you can decrease the cost of college with some creativity and a little extra work.  

Many teachers have taken the step to further their education, and so can you. Read on to learn a few strategies that can help make the cost of college more affordable and bring your educational aspirations within reach.

1. Look for scholarships, grants or fellowships.

woman sitting and typing on laptop

While the FAFSA is a good place to start and can get you in the door for many different federal grants, work-study opportunities and state and school based financial aid, there are lots of other scholarships out there. There are scholarships are available to just about every demographic group, so it doesn’t matter if you’re a high school senior or a career changer. In fact, many grants and scholarships are only available to a particular group of people, such as minorities, military personnel or families, women or men, LGBTQ+ and more.

There’s even a bunch of scholarships just for teachers and educators that you definitely don’t want to miss out on.

2. Explore state-specific resources.

woman writing on paper using a pencil

You may not know that many states offer financial aid to people going back to school for a certain profession, typically one in which there is a shortage or need in that area. Teachers are no exception, and with a national teacher shortage there may be more opportunities available now more than ever. This kind of financial aid does usually have some conditions, like agreeing to work for a certain amount of time in that state after your education is complete.

Washington state, for example, has an Educator Workforce Program (EWP) that provides financial aid to current teachers, student teachers, paraprofessionals and anyone wanting to move into the field of education. This financial aid can be used to pay for school in exchange for working in a teaching shortage area. These kinds of programs exist in many different states—do some research where you live to find out what opportunities may be available to you.

3. Set up a public donation account.

grandfather and grandson laughing together on couch

Lots of people turn to resources like GoFundMe or Venmo as a way to accept donations from their social circle or the public at large. You could start an account to get donations towards your tuition, or if you are already a teacher that’s going back to school, you might consider starting an account to help pay for normal classroom expenses like school supplies to offset the cost of tuition. Then you can share the account with your connections or even your students’ parents, who may be more willing to make a donation that will directly benefit their child’s learning.

4. Get a part-time job.

smiling woman florist holding a bouquet of flowers

Some extra income never hurts. Many people get part-time jobs to help put themselves through college. Your college campus is probably teeming with jobs for students, or maybe the coffeeshop or bookstore off campus is more your speed. No matter what it is, a part-time job is a flexible way to earn some money on the side. Some employers even offer tuition assistance for part-time employees such as Starbucks, Home Depot and Target.

5. Shop where they offer student or teacher discounts.

man holding five shopping bags

Plenty of businesses out there offer discounts for students, and plenty others have discounts for teachers as well. You definitely want to take advantage of student discounts while you’re in school, and as a teacher there are a ton of places where your teacher status can come in handy.

You might assume that the only places that offer teacher discounts are geared towards things that teachers can actually use for their classroom—think Office Depot or JOANN Fabric & Craft Stores—but the list doesn’t end there. Lots of places offer teacher discounts just for being teachers: AT&T, Lenovo and Adidas are just a few of the places that offer special deals for educators. 

6. Follow a budget.

woman calculating expenses on calculator and looking at receipt

When you invest in a degree, other splurge purchases may need to take the backseat for a while. Many people find it helpful to create a budget for themselves so that they can see exactly how their money is being spent and curb any unnecessary purchases. (They add up!)

Some common strategies people use are the 50/30/20, envelope or zero-based methods. There are plenty more if you look online—find one that makes sense for you and stick to it.

How one teaching student paid for their education

Lauren Rutter is a middle school math teacher in Mukilteo, Wash. She has taught for several years and recently decided she wanted to go back to school for a master’s degree. She is currently pursuing a master’s in education in teaching and curriculum from Western Governor’s University (WGU), and is on track to graduate in the spring of 2023.

”I am paying for my degree through financial aid and my own personal savings,” Rutter said. Online degrees like Rutter’s tend to cost a little less than their in-person counterparts, which can be a great money-saving option. Plus, you can save even more when you don’t have all the auxiliary expenses of an in-person degree, such as campus housing or commuting to and from campus.

”There are a variety of scholarships available for current teachers, and there are many payment plans that students can take advantage of,” Rutter said. “I pay for each term, which is two per year.”

Rutter said that she’s glad she went back to school because she feels that her degree is preparing her to be a better teacher. In particular, she wants to learn new teaching strategies so that she can accommodate the diversity of learning styles across all her students and create a more equitable, accessible learning environment.

With professional insight from:

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Lauren Rutter, middle school math teacher
Mukilteo School District