This is an important question that stops a lot of people from going into the field of radiography and many other fields, I would imagine. It is one of the top ten questions I get asked as a licensed radiographer/administrator. Here are the 10 different ways that I know of to pay for your schooling:
- Good old fashioned savings. Plan it out, work hard and save your money before starting school.
- Parents. Not everybody can do this but if you can, by all means.
- Work-Study. This is where the school pays for your tuition and you pay them back by working at the school.
- Hospital contract. Agree to work for X number of years and the hospital will pay for your school.
- Scholarships from off-campus. Literally thousands out there. Use the internet and apply for as many as possible.
- Scholarships on campus, like full tuition covered for making the school basketball team, volleyball, golf, academics, etc.
- School grants. Just like scholarships and you don’t have to pay them back. These are offered by the school.
- Work while going to school. Pay as you go and incur no student loan debt.
- Sell your possessions. Sounds corny but I sold my car freshman year to start college. Small town though, car not needed.
- Work tuition reimbursement. Most employers will reimburse your school tuition up to a few thousand dollars each year.
- Student loans. Last resort and can haunt you for a lifetime…literally. But it might be your only option. Subsidized, Unsubsidized, Perkins.
Don’t Stress Until You Know You Are Accepted
I have personally gone to school for several degrees and had to pay for each one. Figuring out how to accomplish it is very stressful. Several people have said to me over the years “I wanted to do what you do but wasn’t sure how I was going to pay for it.” So they never applied. My answer is always “don’t worry about it until you get accepted.” Don’t get me wrong, it’s best to prepare and plan. But I’ve seen lots of people not get accepted into the program. Why stress over how you’re going to pay for something that you haven’t even been accepted for yet.
First Things First, Pick The Right School
In case you didn’t know, there is a huge difference in cost between private radiography programs and public ones. My radiography program was close to $20,000 back in 2003 because I chose a private school. Had circumstances allowed me to choose the public school route, my local community college was only $7,000. At that affordable rate, you can save up the money to cover that if you plan smart. I went to private school because there was a two-year waiting list at the public program and I didn’t want to wait.
So be sure to check out all the programs within a distance that you are comfortable driving.to get there. If you can relocate, even better. I see students come to our program in southern Idaho and then return to their home state. Graduates are only paying around $8,000 here for our public program. Be smart and do your research. Ask for a copy of the full curriculum and see if there are any prerequisites needed before you start. My private school had no prerequisites and no waiting list so starting the program happened fast.
Good Old Fashioned Savings and Helpful Parents
I certainly wasn’t prepared enough for this method. I worked through high school but all that money went to gas, car repair, clothes, and dating. But I have met parents who put away money religiously and were able to save a significant amount. Even if you have graduated high school, a few years of dedicated savings can make a big difference. Have a family to support? That might make this option a little too difficult to attain. Talk to your spouse and see if you can agree on a plan.
For my radiography program, I did a combination of things: pay-as-you-go, parent loan, student loan, and hospital contract. I had used up most of my student loan allotment getting my bachelors degree. So there was only a little bit of room left for x-ray money. Then I started paying monthly while I worked a full-time job until my mom stepped up and loaned me some money. With perfect timing, my hospital employer started offering a scholarship that helped pay for x-ray school towards the end of the program. I signed an agreement to work a minimum of two years in order to receive the scholarship. Mission accomplished.
Work-Study Programs at Colleges and Universities
I first saw these during my freshman year at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. While applying for financial aid, they offered me the ability to work in the Student Union as a cook. Every school is different so you just have to ask for the details. Hours worked in Work-Study apply towards your tuition. They will work around your class schedule and can be very understanding when you need time off for finals. For the most part, the school places you wherever they need coverage in the school but you might get to choose from the different locations they have open. My second oldest daughter signed up to work for the university’s Student Senate.
Hospital Scholarship – Work Contracts
These are actually quite popular at many locations. The nurses are the ones who benefit from these more than anyone else. In that I mean they always get offered help whereas techs tend to have to fight their way through. Yep, I’m a little jealous of the spoiled nurses. Nevertheless, you can call the Human Resource department of any hospital and ask if they offer this to employees. Typically you have to work there for six months or a year in order to be eligible. After that, you apply and get awarded just for being an employee. You do have to sign the contract though and it usually stipulates that you agree to stay in their employ for a minimum of two years after you graduate.
Jumping ship after training is something we see a lot in healthcare and imaging specifically. If I had a dollar for every time I saw a tech get cross-trained into MRI only to bolt to the competitor for higher pay once they completed their training….I’d be a rich man. So the hospital hedges their bets by offering the scholarship IF you agree to stay onboard a while. I did this method and it worked just fine for me.
Scholarships ON and OFF Campus
My oldest two daughters are in college now. All through high school, I tried to focus them on three areas: sports, academics and foreign language studies. Every college or university offers scholarships for good athletes and academics. Yes, some are way more competitive than others but some aren’t. Foreign languages had no bearing here but in my mind, if you know a foreign language coming out of high school then you should get an “easy A” in the first few college classes. I’m all for the “easy A” classes in college. They will counterbalance the statistics, physics and microbiology classes which almost sent me to an early grave.
Besides the school scholarships, there are thousands of scholarships offered by businesses, organizations and other for-profit / non-profit entities. My second oldest daughter applied to over 30 scholarships her senior year in high school and landed nine of them. Her first two years of college were covered and she didn’t owe anyone a dime. Use the internet and school resources to find scholarships and apply for as many as possible.
University and Public Grants
“University Grant” is what they were called when I got my bachelors degree from Arizona State. There are many different kinds of grants but the grant I received was good for $1,000. I’m not sure what triggered my need but I didn’t ask. Every little bit helps when you are paying for college. Just like scholarships, call around and ask what is available and do your internet research. Don’t forget your local organizations like Freemasons, 4H Clubs, FFA, local banks, etc. Two of my daughters qualified for $3,000 per year from being active in Job’s Daughters.
Grants don’t have to be paid back either. You receive them as a gift and they get applied to your debt.
Work While Going to School and Pay-As-You-Go
I’ve done this my whole school career. The only way I could have stopped working was to go on the full support of student loans and live off the loans. The debt burden in that scenario would be overwhelming. If you choose the right program, you can work while attending a radiography program. I posted about it in this article. Is it tough? Yes, it can be very tough. But just how committed are you? Back in those days, I would reflect back on the movie Shawshank Redemption: “Get busy living… or get busy dying.” In the article I just linked to, I talk about how to optimize your schedules for working and going to school. There are other helpful tips and tricks in there if you find yourself in this payment category.
Have a Garage Sale
My freshman year I had zero funds. I did have a decent 1981 Camaro though and I sold it for $1500 in 1990. It paid for my first semester in college and some books. Luckily this little college town was small enough to walk from one side to the other. The duplex I rented was near the center of everything so I didn’t really need a car. There are lots of other things you can sell. Especially now with Facebook and Craigslist Buy Sell Trade groups. Maybe you could part with your old motorcycle or shotgun or whatever else you have of value?
The Nuclear Option: Student Loans
I strongly recommend you stay away from these unless absolutely necessary. If you miss a few payments and these end up in default, it can affect your life for the next ten years or more. Interest rates are usually pretty low but interest is interest. The CT Tech who trained me in CT when I was a student had a $25,000 student loan that he used for radiography school. At age 65, he had paid on it for over 15 years and still owed over $10,000. As a Vietnam veteran, he wrote to his Congressman asking for relief. None came. He is still paying to this day.
There are several types of student loans and each carries its own unique set of rules. You have two options when you graduate: start repaying them or apply for a deferment of payment. Federal student loans offer deferment for situations like going back to school or loss of a job. There’s also a forbearance that will put your payments on hold until a set future date. These can be had for a number of reasons, usually financial burden. Just remember, the payments may be on hold but the interest keeps growing. The only “good” thing about student loans is that they die with their owner. My student loan debt cannot be passed to my wife or children upon my death.
My Associates in Radiography from Pima Medical Institute
I used a combination of methods as mentioned above: hospital contract, mom, cash and a little student loans. I wanted to get through the program quickly so that I could start working at a higher rate of pay than what I previously made as a phlebotomist. Cost $18,000 – hourly salary after graduation $27/hr. (decent ROI)
My Bachelors in Psychology from Arizona State University
I completed this before my rad tech school. I paid for my bachelor’s degree with lots of student loans. I blame ignorance and naivety. My debt is now in the six figures and I will likely never get it paid off in my lifetime. But it helped me achieve my personal goal of getting a bachelor’s degree. Ultimately the personal payoff was when I moved into management. Often times bachelor’s degrees are needed to get into hospital management positions. Cost $60,000+ – hourly salary after graduation: $10/hr (not a great ROI)
My Associate in Sonography from Gateway Community College.
I paid cash for my ultrasound school because it was public education and only $8,000. I paid monthly as I went through the two-year program. I relied highly on tuition reimbursement from my employer. In Arizona, this amounted to $5,250 per year. Since ultrasound is a two-year program, the cost was easily paid by tuition reimbursement. But you have to pay it out of pocket first. You also have to get a passing grade on every class or your work will not reimburse you at all. Cost $8,000 – hourly salary after graduation: $33/hr (great ROI)
Master’s of Science in Radiologic Science from Weber State University
My master’s degree was mostly paid by scholarships from my Indian tribe and work tuition reimbursement. As a registered Choctaw Indian, I was able to get some grants to help with this degree. The rest I covered with tuition reimbursement, which is a little lower in Idaho at $2,250 per year. My master’s degree is in Radiologic Sciences and has helped me grow more in my career and knowledge of radiology. This was more of a personal goal but is looked upon favorably when seeking executive level management positions. I completed it in 2017. Cost $18,000 and it did raise my income because it opened the door to a promotion.
How Old is Too Old to Start a Radiography Program?
I’m just going to throw this out there since I hear this question/excuse a lot too. Can you be too old at some point to start one of these programs?
- Bachelors – graduated at age 27,
- Radiography – graduated at age 34,
- Sonography – graduated at age 37,
- Masters – graduated at age 46
Believe it or not, I’m currently looking at a doctorate program. It has nothing to do with my career or a promotion. It is a dream I have had since I was much younger. At this point, I figure… I made it this far… why not? The real question is…HOW AM I GOING TO PAY FOR IT 🙂
Do you have other methods to add to how you paid for school? Add it in the comment section for future students to benefit from it.
If you are curious about the career of radiography, I have written some articles on various topics:
- How much does x-ray pay,
- 7 dangers of being a rad tech,
- Different ways to pay for radiography school,
- How to get accepted into a rad tech program,
- Can you work full-time while going to rad tech school and
- 5 reasons I chose a career in radiology.
I hope you find this helpful. You are welcome to email me with any questions. Thanks for stopping by TheRadiologicTechnologist.com.
Ron – [email protected]