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article imageOp-Ed: Student pays for tuition with mail-in rebates

By Leigh Goessl     Sep 14, 2012 in World
One 25-year-old Auburn University student came up with a unique, and affordable, way to pay his post-grad tuition. His approach? He paid almost a full semester's tuition from rebates.
Jonathan Hood, a 25-year-old PhD student and a computer programer, had a $4,500 tuition bill. He was able to cover the majority of this bill with rebates. Hood said he paid $2,500 with debit cards he'd received from rebates, noting he entered between 200 and 250 prepaid debit cards into the university's online payment system. The rest he paid with rebate checks he'd garnered, reported Business Insider.
"On a weekday, I usually have about two or three debit cards or rebate checks coming in," Hood said. "[Stores] usually have at least one item come up online that's free with a rebate, usually two or three. I'll purchase the item, save the UPC code and mail it in with the receipt."
For those who may be wondering how Hood came up with this idea, he explains:
"My dad kind of got me hooked," Hood told Business Insider. "We stood in line early in the morning and I found out then I could get the games I wanted for either really cheap or for free [with mail-in-rebates]."
After that experience, which was at age 15, for the next several years, Hood found himself seeking rebates anywhere he could find them. For the last two years he has paid for his cellphone bill exclusively with rebates. He routinely searches the web looking for deals with rebates.
Is this a good way for students to pay tuition? It seems to have its pros and cons, but it would depend upon the approach used by an individual.
On the plus side, there is no huge bill to struggle to pay when it's time to start classes, and there are likely some good products that may have been netted in the process. Perhaps most importantly, no student loan to pay off at the end of the tunnel.
However, the cons are undoubtedly the labor-intensive process of searching and applying for rebates. Depending how many hours it might take, what would the hourly wage be? It might be less time intensive to get a part time job to cover tuition. Additionally, money is still shelled out for products in the first place, so is this a true savings? This would depend on whether or not the products would still have been purchased with or without rebates.
Hood, however seems to have come up with a solution to buying products he wouldn't have purchased anyway. He resells them.
"My average rebate takes 11 minutes to fill out and cash, and is for $40. My envelopes and pens were free after rebate, so their cost is negligible. For this $40 rebate, I use a 2% cash-back credit card to purchase the item ($0.80 profit) and receive anywhere from 0-5% using FatCash from Fatwallet or a similar service. Stamp price is $0.45. Then, I turn around and sell the item on eBay for an average profit of $11.91 after shipping and taxes per item."
According to the Huffington Post, Hood also developed a program to aid in tracking rebates to know when they are past due.
His system ensured he had no student loans, at least for this semester. Now he's started on next year's tuition, currently having already amassed $160 with an expected $600 in rebates coming to him in the near future.
With increasing costs of a degree, the Associated Press recently reported the average tuition at a four-year public school rose 15 percent between 2008 and 2010. In this respect, Hood has certainly thought outside the proverbial box when it comes to funding education.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about jonathan hood, auburn university, mail in rebates, Rebates, debit card rebate
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