Consider Working at a University to Help Pay College Expenses

My aunt and uncle, both high school graduates with no college education, had nine kids and helped the ones who wanted to go to college pay for their education.

Many of the nine children now hold professional positions such as financial planner and nursing supervisor.  They are all successful adults, and some make very good salaries.

My aunt and uncle were able to help pay a portion of their children’s college costs despite the fact that my uncle worked in a factory for a number of years while my aunt was a homemaker.

How were they able to do it?

Besides being frugal and not living beyond their means, they made an important decision:  when all of the children were in school during the day, my aunt went back to work at the local university.

She entered the workforce in her forties, and although her salary certainly helped supplement my uncle’s income, what helped the most was that one of her employment benefits was receiving 75% off tuition for her children.

All of her children who went to college went to the university she worked at and got their education for a quarter of what it cost other students.

I never asked them if they strategically planned for my aunt to return to the workplace in pursuit of such a generous perk, but knowing them and their financial savvy, I would not be surprised if that was the case.

The price of a college education continues to outpace inflation, and more and more we are seeing students graduate with a heavy burden of student loan debt.

This debt load affects their future; it can take 10 to 20 years to pay off the balance.

college costs

Working at a university can help defray the ballooning costs of college.

Years ago loans were paid off in 10 years maximum, but because students are taking out so many loans and the balance is so high, there are now a variety of payment options that can double the life of the student loan.  College students may find themselves paying for their student loans well into their thirties when they want to buy a house and start a family.

However, working at the university or college you would like to attend is one way to circumvent this.

At the university my aunt worked at, she herself could have gotten free tuition and fees, and that perk was available to employees working full-time OR part-time.  To make college more affordable, it would make sense for a high school graduate to work part-time at a university to receive the free tuition.  Many universities and colleges offer this benefit.

When I used to work at a community college, my husband took a few of his general education credits there because he was able to go for free because I worked there.

If you are a stay-at-home parent looking to re-enter the workforce, or a student looking to take a year off before beginning school, consider working at the local college to reap the generous tuition perks.

I don’t know that my aunt always enjoyed her job, but she is proud of her nine successful children and her role in helping to educate them.  Likewise, her children are glad to have gotten a college education that didn’t land them in debt for years after graduation.

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Published or updated October 25, 2012.


  1. I worked my freshman year of college for the Dean of the business department as part of my work-study program, and it was great. Not only did I get paid, but it was essentially additional pay for learning. I got to listen in on meetings and he talked to me about business topics since he knew I was studying accounting. Plus, I got to keep more of the money since student-employees are exempt from FICA & Medicare taxes.

  2. Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager says:

    Interesting concept. I know kids in college who took up the offer of going to the school where their parents worked and other who didn’t. You just need to be able to work at a college that your kids actually WANT to go too.

  3. That’s a great strategy. I’ll have to keep it in mind when baby RB40 is accepted to Harvard. 😀
    I was a TA during grad school and the tuition deduction helped tremendously.

  4. I really like this idea. I think it might be a little tough for an aspiring student to get a qualifying job but I really like the thought of a parent doing it for their children, especially in large families.

  5. A lot of colleges have agreements with other schools for similar tuition benefits. The previous school I worked at was religiously affiliated, and all of the colleges and universities (there were around 30) who shared that affiliation offered tuition benefits to the employees of the other schools. The benefit varied from full tuition (just pay room and board) to a 30-50% discount off tuition, but that does open the door to other schools. The college where I currently work belongs to a network of other schools (I don’t even know how many, or who, or the discounts), but again, your child doesn’t have to go to the school YOU work at while still benefiting from your employment at a college or university.

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