By Cassidy Horton
Going back to college is a chance to improve your career opportunities, but figuring out how to pay tuition can be an obstacle for many. On the one hand, students may find their financial obligations prevent them from paying the tuition bill outright. On the other, the prospect of student loans and their interest-accruing debt can feel daunting.
Tuition payment plans, which allow you to make payments toward your tuition over several months, are an alternative. While this option is not available at all universities (or at University of Phoenix specifically), it can be helpful to know what’s out there. Keep reading to find out what a tuition payment plan is and how it could help you manage your college tuition bill.
Use our Savings Explorer™ tool to see if your work, life and school experiences can give you a head start on your degree.
A tuition payment plan breaks up your college tuition bill into equal payments across the semester or academic year. You might also see these called deferred payment plans or tuition installment plans.
Payment plans are short-term options, lasting from a few months to one year depending on what a given school offers. Some universities offer payment plans that cover the entire academic year. Other schools offer plans that break up the total cost into two or three payments.
Signing up for a tuition installment plan typically involves an enrollment fee that could be from $15 to $200. While it’s never fun to pay enrollment fees, they ultimately save you money: Enrolling in a payment plan means you’re not accruing interest as you would with a student loan.
Even when you’re awarded scholarships and grants, it might not be enough to cover your full tuition. Student loans are one option to close the gap, but the loans come with interest rates, possible credit checks and longer repayment terms. And if you borrow unsubsidized loans, the interest begins accruing right away.
Taking on loans also requires responsibility on the part of the borrower. It’s important to borrow only what you need, exhausting other free or low-cost opportunities such as scholarships and grants first.
When a tuition payment plan is available, however, that can be a good option to close the gap between your bill and your financial aid package. Here’s what to know before you enroll:
Many universities have their own system for payment plans, but if your school doesn’t, you might be able to use a third-party service.
If you’re wondering how a payment plan functions, we’ll take a look at an example.
Let’s say you’re planning to attend a university full time next semester, and the total cost for the semester is $5,000. You’ve saved up about $1,000 to help with costs, but you know that won’t be enough. After filling out the FAFSA® form, you received a Pell Grant award of $1,600 for each semester. With this assistance, your total bill for the semester is now $3,400.
Instead of applying for a student loan, you decide on a five-month payment plan. The tuition payment plan charges a $30 service fee and requires a 25% ($850) down payment at sign-up. That $1,000 you have saved can be used to cover these costs.
Your $850 down payment is deducted from your total balance of $3,400. Your remaining balance of $2,550 is split into five equal monthly payments of $510.
Dividing the cost of education into more manageable monthly payments makes it easier for students to achieve their goals without accumulating debt.
That’s just one of the benefits of choosing a tuition payment plan. It also has these advantages:
Before signing up for a payment plan, you should consider all sides of this decision. Are the monthly payments manageable for your family? If not, you could find yourself paying costly late fees.
You’ll also need to set aside money for the down payment that a tuition payment plan requires — and that could cost more if you enroll later.
You should also consider these drawbacks:
There are several advantages to choosing a monthly payment plan, but it’s important to consider how those stack up against your financial situation and obligations when compared to your other options.
According to the student loan servicer Nelnet, only one in five students uses a payment plan to help fund higher education. So, what other options are available? Consider the following:
Loans can be useful, but explore federal grants, scholarships and work-study programs first. While these might not cover everything, they can reduce the amount you have to take out in student loans, which accrue interest.
Lastly, you’ll want to evaluate your federal loan options before considering private student loans. That’s because federal student loans offer more protections and benefits than private student loans.
Overall, tuition payment plans can save you money on loan interest and they provide peace of mind in that you know you’re tackling your tuition in real time. But even with all the benefits of a monthly payment plan, you’ll still need to analyze your finances to know if this is the right move for you or if it’s even available at your school of choice.
University of Phoenix does not offer tuition payment plans, but it is committed to helping students save money with scholarships, generous transfer credit policies, alternative credit options, fixed tuition and more. Explore all the ways you can save!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cassidy Horton is an academic advisor turned finance writer who’s passionate about helping people find financial freedom. With an MBA and a bachelor's in public relations, she's had the pleasure of working with top finance brands like Forbes Advisor and PayPal. She's also the founder of Money Hungry Freelancers, a platform dedicated to helping freelancers ditch their financial stress. In her spare time, you can find Cassidy hiking around the Pacific Northwest and cuddling her two cats.
want to read more like this?
About University of Phoenix
As pioneers in online higher education since 1989, University of Phoenix is an accredited online university for working adults. We are proud to offer quality educational pathways through flexible, career-focused online degrees, certificates and professional development courses that fit into your life and options to save you time and money. Our students are supported every step of the way, including career services for life.
Let us help you take the most direct path to your future career goals. We’re ready when you are.
More than 100 online programs aligned to 300+ occupations.
Online courses and certificates
Explore professional development and earn credentials.
Ways to save
Learn ways you can save as you pursue your goals.