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Scholarships and Student Loans: 9 Ways to Finance Your Education

June 2, 2022 - Daniel Dreier

Scholarships and student loans are the most common tools for financing education, but by no means the only ones. Get ideas on how to finance your education in Switzerland here.

Statistics show that Swiss university and college graduates earn, on average, more than twice as much as their high-school-graduate peers. Even graduates of higher vocational colleges glean median monthly salaries 1000 francs higher than those of high school graduates who have not completed any further education. Considering those statistics, the financial case for further education seems obvious. But education requires investment, and financing your studies can be challenging. To give you some ideas of where to start, have a look at these possible ways to finance your education.

1. Cantonal scholarships

This is by far the most popular way to finance higher education because you don’t have to pay it back, and who doesn’t love a freebie?

According to the Federal Statistical Office, 7.8 percent of tertiary students in Switzerland received scholarships in 2020. According to the Federal Statistical Office, 7.8 percent of tertiary students in Switzerland received scholarships in 2020, with the median scholarship being 6000 Swiss francs per student. Cantonal scholarships are available for Swiss residents looking to study either in Switzerland or abroad, and you can apply for them at the respective cantonal office.

Eligibility rules vary between cantons. In the Canton of Zurich, residents as old as 45 can receive scholarships, while in Basel eligibility ends at age 40. Just contact your cantonal scholarship office (German: Stipendienstelle, French: bourse d’études) for more information.

2. Cantonal student loans

While not every student will qualify for a scholarship, cantonal scholarship authorities also offer student loans for higher education. Unlike scholarships, these have to be repaid after your studies are complete, but many cantons do not charge interest on the loan.

The terms and conditions governing when loans need to be repaid and minimum loan repayments vary between cantons. For example, you may only have to begin repaying the loan 2 years after completing your studies. Typically, cantonal student loans must be repaid over a 10-year term.

3. Private scholarships

Aside from cantonal scholarships, you may be eligible for numerous private scholarships from one of Switzerland’s many foundations. Aside from your scholastic record, the deciding factors may include the canton or municipality you live in, your gender, your marital status, whether or not you have children, which university or college you study at, what degree you are working towards, how long you have already studied, your age and even your ethnic background. Some scholarships are provided in addition to cantonal financing, while others are not.

You can find a comprehensive list of foundations which offer private scholarships here (in German).

4. Private loans

Nobody understands you and your potential as well as your family and friends. It is possible that there is someone within your social circle that is looking to invest their money in exchange for a decent return. If you cannot finance your education through scholarships and are considering getting a loan, private loans from your family or friends should take priority.

A friend or family member may be willing to charge you a lower interest rate than a bank would, and they too benefit from earning a higher return than they would from a savings account. If you are able to secure a private loan, make sure to do it properly so that both you and the lender are protected (refer to the guide to private loans for more information).

5. Commercial student loans

Specialized student loans are relatively new and unestablished in Switzerland. Some regional banks offer student loans, but require that you study at specific institutions or meet certain age requirements in order to be eligible. For example, Bank Linth gives loans to eligible students who study at Hochschule Rapperswil. The Banque Cantonale du Valais (BCVs) offers a 3-phase student loan for residents studying at many Swiss and foreign universities and colleges. Unlike standard Swiss personal loans which are only given to employed individuals, you generally do not have to be employed to get a student loan.

6. Personal loans

A personal loan can work well if you want to finance continuing education and are employed at least part-time. You will not be able to get a personal loan if you are not employed. The exact rates you get will depend on your income and creditworthiness, but you can get a good idea of the interest rates charged by different lenders in the personal loan comparison.

7. Peer-to-peer student loans

Peer-to-peer loans for students are a relatively new development. As such, there aren't many platforms or lenders available. But if you are driven and confident that you can turn education into profit, this may be worth a try. It works like this: You list yourself as a potential borrower, stating the amount you need to borrow. Some peer-to-peer loan platforms let you specify how much interest you can pay, while others set the interest rate for you. The peer-to-peer platform grades your creditworthiness. Private investors can then choose whether or not to lend you money.

Examples of peer-to-peer student loan platforms include Zurich-based and Prodigy Finance, a UK-based platform which offers loans internationally.

Educa Swiss, a Swiss non-profit organization, connects students who have clear educational goals with private loans from individuals and organizations. Educa Swiss acts as an intermediary, matching you with a prospective lender and helping you set up a loan agreement. The interest rates are generally low compared to other student loans.

8. Credit cards

Using credit cards to finance your education is not recommended. Credit card loans are one of the most expensive kinds of loans you can get. 

But if you regularly need short-term loans which you can afford to repay within one month, credit cards can help to bridge temporary financial gaps. As long as you make your payments in full at the end of each month, you do not pay interest.

Never get credit card cash advances at ATMs, banks, or other locations at which you must pay cash advance fees. There are ways to get credit card cash advances without paying fees. You can find these in the guide to free cash withdrawals with credit cards in Switzerland.

9. Look into employer grants

If you already work for an employer, find out if your company offers continuing education grants for employees. It is in your employer’s best interest to keep you on the cutting edge, and many businesses provide either in-house continuing education opportunities or financing for external education. Additionally, some businesses offer education grants to apprentices and students on the condition that they sign up for a long-term employment contract upon completion of their studies.

In most cases, educational grants will only be provided if the course or degree program in question aligns with the organization’s needs. Still, if you can picture yourself remaining in that line of work, these opportunities for self-improvement are worth jumping on.

More on this topic:
Free Swiss MOOCs explained
Health insurance for foreign students in Switzerland
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Editor Daniel Dreier
Daniel Dreier is editor and personal finance expert at
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