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Innovative Ways to Pay: College Money You May Not Know About

When most students and parents think of the words "financial aid," the first things that probably come to mind are the widely used government and university programs.

Students who limit themselves to these traditional funding options not only might be missing out on many innovative ways to pay, but in some cases they might even be passing up free money in the process.

If you can log onto the Internet and use a telephone, you have everything you need to uncover unused scholarships, hidden sources of college money, and other alternatives for covering the heavy costs of a college diploma.

That said, FOXNews.com did a little bit of the work for you:

Video: Jenna's Dilemma Part 1: Jenna's Got to Be Happy

Jenna Patterson of Monroe, N.Y. is heading off to college soon, but Jenna and her parents have yet to decide on the best college for Jenna, and are struggling with how they will pay for it. In the first installment of this FOX series, Jenna doesn't want to compromise her dreams, but Jenna's father says he must be happy with the decision too.

Work Colleges: If you are planning to work while going to college anyway, why not attend a college where working is required? Work colleges do just that. While co-op programs are usually only offered to certain students, work colleges offer every student a job regardless of their field of study or financial need.

Most students work 10 to 15 hours a week in jobs ranging from the computer lab to maintaining campus grounds. This not only provides students with money to help pay for college, it also gives them work experience. Work colleges in the United States include:

Alice Lloyd College in Pippa Passes, Kentucky
Berea College in Berea, Kentucky
Blackburn College in Carlinville, Illinois
College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Missouri
Deep Springs College in Deep Springs, California
Sterling College in Craftsbury Common, Vermont
Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina

Cooperative Work-Study Education: The Student Educational Employment Program is a work-study program sponsored by the federal government that provides high school and college students with federal employment opportunities to help earn money for college, as well as gain valuable work experience. The Program is comprised of two parts, the Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP) and the Student Career Experience Program (SCEP).

STEP offers more flexibility since the jobs do not have to be directly related to student majors and career goals. Employment can range from summer jobs to work that lasts as long as the student is in college.

SCEP is a more intense program that provides formal periods of work and study while students are in school. SCEP partners students with educational institutions and various federal agencies, giving them relevant work experience while allowing the employers to develop their future workforce. SCEP also includes health and life insurance policies.

The AmeriCorps Program: The AmeriCorps program offers money for college in return for community service. More than 3,000 nonprofits, public agencies and faith-based organizations are served by AmeriCorps.

AmeriCorps members tackle various needs in communities including literacy, health services, affordable housing, park and stream maintenance and many others.

Members can work before, during, or after college. An AmeriCorps Education Award of $4,725 is given to members who complete a year of full-time service (10 to 12 months) and can be used to pay for college, graduate school, or to pay back student loans.

Articulation Agreements: According to FinAid.com, an internet guide to financial aid, the average tuition at a community college is 40 percent of the average cost of a four-year public college, and 10 percent of the tuition at a four-year private college. Considering these striking statistics, beginning at a community college can be a smart option for saving big bucks.

Articulation agreements are partnerships between community colleges and four-year colleges that allow students to fulfill credit requirements at a lower-cost community college before transferring to a four-year school. It’s possible to save thousands of dollars a year by attending a community college for the first two years of the college education.

The agreements either guarantee that the community college associate’s degree satisfies all freshman and sophomore requirements at a four-year institution — giving the student junior standing at the four-year college — or specifies a list of courses that will be treated as an equivalent.

At some colleges, dual admission programs allow the student to apply to the community college and the four-year college at the same time. If accepted, the student is guaranteed a spot at the four-year school as a transfer student once they have obtained their associate’s degree.

Articulation agreements are usually limited to colleges in a certain geographical area or between all the public community colleges and public four-year colleges in a specific state’s system of higher education. For more information about these agreements and a list by state, click here.

Research Your State: For other financial aid options, research your home state’s individual offerings. Many states have unique alternatives that might not be obvious or well-publicized. For instance:

Some states, such as Illinois, give financial aid to future teachers. The Illinois Future Teacher Corps Program offers scholarships to students who are planning to be pre-school, elementary or secondary school teachers in the state. Students sign a contract pledging to teach a certain amount of time in a school that is often thin on instructors. Other states offer similar programs.

Another offering is the Academic Common Market, offered in some southeastern states. Students living in Alabama, Delaware, Florida (graduate only), Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina (graduate only), Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas (graduate only), Virginia and West Virginia can study in another’s public institution and still pay tuition at an in-state rate if their major is not offered in their home state.

Loyalty Programs: The earlier one starts saving for college, the better. Loyalty programs are an easy way to start saving money for education long before the college years. Websites such as BabyMint.com and Upromise.com are programs that deposit shopping rebates into college accounts. With thousands of participating retailers, one doesn’t have to change shopping habits in order to earn money for college savings.

Although loyalty programs usually don’t generate big savings, they’re a way to earn extra money for college without having to think too hard about it. Friends and relatives can also contribute their rebates into a loved one’s account.

For more tools and tips on preparing financially for college, click here for the FOXBusiness.com's College Planning page.

Click here to visit Foxnews.com's special section on college life, College 101.