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December 9, 2021

How criminal justice students paid for school

kendall upton

Written by:

Kendall Upton

Staff Writer

criminal justice student sitting in classroom

You’re thinking about getting a degree in the field of criminal justice, but the price tag may be giving you pause. It’s true that going to college can be a huge investment in your education and future: the Education Data Initiative states that the average cost of college has more than doubled in the 21st century. This may make people think that a criminal justice education is out of their financial reach. Luckily, there is an abundance of resources out there that can help anyone make their educational goals feasible, no matter their financial situation.

Here are some ways you can mitigate the financial burden of a college degree so that you can take the next step in your criminal justice career.

Find scholarships and grants

According to a report by the Education Data Initiative, scholarships and grants are the second largest funding source for higher education. There are a ton of scholarships out there, and while many are open to anyone, there are also a lot that are only for certain groups of people—single parents, military families, minorities, you name it.

There are even scholarships specifically for criminal justice students. Here are just a few examples of some scholarships you might consider applying for:

Fill out the FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can put you in the running for numerous federal grants, work-study opportunities and state and school-based financial assistance. It’s a good idea to fill it out even if you don’t think you’ll qualify, because as the name suggests, it’s totally free. Some schools even require you to complete the FAFSA to determine how much money they can award you for financial aid, so it’s a good idea not to ignore this one.

Get a part-time job

If you need a little extra cash to make ends meet, a part-time job is always a great option. Most part-time jobs have flexible hours, so it’s easy to make it work around your academic schedule. It could be a boon to your long-term career to get a job or paid internship that’s related to what you’re studying—a legal assistant for aspiring paralegals, for example, or a security guard for those who want to go into law enforcement, emergency management or corrections. Even though these can be great options, a job as a barista or fast-food worker can work just as well. 

In fact, there are quite a few companies that offer tuition assistance for employees including Amazon, Starbucks, Publix, Home Depot, Target and more. 

Create a budgeting plan

Crafting budget ensures that you are saving a designated amount each month. This can be useful whether you are saving up for college or while you are in school and have a lot of school-related expenses. If you consult the internet, you’ll find loads of budgeting techniques out there. Find one that works for you and your lifestyle, and then stick to it!

Many budget techniques have you allocate a certain amount of money to spend each month towards certain expenses. This means you may have to be more frugal than you normally would to ensure that you don’t overspend. Here are a few money-saving tips that can help you stick to your budget:

  • Purchase used textbooks
  • Avoid eating out as much as possible, and cook your meals instead
  • Buy clothing and other items from secondhand stores
  • Shop for items on sale or from wallet-friendly brands
  • When you want to do something fun, utilize free campus resources such as equipment rentals for things like outdoor gear
  • Use public transportation
  • Cancel unnecessary monthly subscription services

Shop where they offer student discounts

Lots of businesses offer discounts to students, and usually all you need to do is show them your student ID. Be sure to shop at businesses that aren’t expensive to begin with—there’s no sense in using a student discount where the products are still going to end up costing more than they would elsewhere. Some business that offer student discounts include Goodwill, AMC Theatres, Taco Bell, United Airlines and Bed Bath & Beyond.

Plenty of mom-and-pop businesses offer student discounts too, especially ones that are near a college or university. If you aren’t sure if your local businesses offer a student discount, just ask!

Do student teaching, if it’s an option

At the graduate school level, it’s common for many programs to offer student teaching positions (often either as a teaching assistant or as the instructor to an introductory undergraduate course) in exchange for a stipend and/or a reduced tuition. If you have the bandwidth, this could be a great option to get a large portion of your tuition paid for. It might even make you a better student because you get to teach what you are learning about.

Ask family and friends for help

There’s nothing wrong with accepting help from those who are willing to give it. Parental contributions account for the greatest share of financial support for most students’ educations, according to the Education Data Initiative. You don’t have to limit yourself to parents, either. Anyone that you are close within your family or social circle may be willing to invest in your education if you ask. If it feels weird to ask for help, consider asking for money towards your education as a birthday or holiday gift. 

Some people even start a GoFundMe or public Venmo account and post it on social media so that anyone can donate to your education. After all, many small contributions can really start to add up.

How one criminal justice student paid for school

Julia Kochanowski earned her Bachelor of Science in Biology and Forensic Science with a minor in Criminal Justice from the University of North Dakota. She is currently in a graduate program at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences studying Clinical and Translational Sciences with a focus in Pathogenesis of Human Disease.

Kochanowski said that she paid for the first two years of her bachelor’s degree with a combination of loans and grants. “I applied for FAFSA every year as soon as it opened. After that I applied for the McNair program. The McNair program is for first-generation, low-income and minority students who want to pursue a PhD. Once accepted, they were able to waive my tuition as well as pay me for research, fund me to go to conferences, and give me reduced pricing on the GRE. I got another scholarship called the US MASTER scholarship and they focused on STEM majors.”

Kochanowski said that these programs were invaluable to her because not only did they relieve some financial burden, but they made it possible to not need a part-time job so she could focus on her studies.

“Having these two programs to rely on allowed me to not have to worry about getting a job off campus. I was able to start working as a forensic autopsy technician and get real job experience and work in the pathology lab to get research experience. These jobs helped me focus on certain skill sets that would better prepare me for my future career. They also allowed me time for school and made that a priority.”

Her advice for criminal justice students?

“Always apply for FAFSA the first day it opens because you will get more grant money that way. Then investigate every scholarship opportunity you qualify for. If the scholarship application has a written portion then make sure you do those! Most students don’t want to write a statement and will skip over those. You’ll be far more likely to get accepted and you’ll probably get more money because not many people apply. My scholarships were begging for people to apply and would practically throw money at anyone who needed it. If they don’t use the money then they lose funding for following years.”

With professional insights from:

Julia Kochanowski, BS in Biology Forensic Science with a minor in Criminal Justice

Graduate student, University of North Dakota