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You have heard the numbers, students loans federal and private total around 1.5 Trillion Dollars. Tuition for higher education is not cheap in the US, add to that on campus living expenses and you can see your numbers sky rocket.
Money shouldn’t be a reason not to go to college, if you so desire. Besides federal and private loans, there are many opportunities to obtain funding for college.
Ideally if your parents set up educational funds or 529 plans, you can use them to pay fully or partially for higher eduction. However, these plans cost money and require investing in them for years before actually attending college. If you happen to have one of these plan, use it first before taking loans.
The most popular ways to fund college are thru loans; federal and private. Federal loans charge you a lower interest rates than market. Private loans are more expensive and should be avoided altogether.
Loans are very expensive ways to finance your education. You can end up paying for these loans years after graduation, having to put off the purchase of a home or even starting a family.
The good news is that with some effort and research upfront you can find other options to pay for college. These alternatives may require some sacrifice, but they are so worth it. Think about it, graduating college without the burden of high debt.
[I want to emphasize that this is a roadmap, this is not the only way to afford college with no debt]
What I did to Pay for college with no debt
No two people have the same circumstances or situations, but we can learn from others who have been thru experiences we wish to accomplish. I didn’t have a 529 plan set up by my parent and didn’t have the money to pay cash for college tuition. So, I was looking at Federal grants and loans as my options. I purposely didn’t even think about private loans to pay for school because the numbers didn’t add up in my mind.
1.Choose your college wisely
After being accepted into a private college and two public colleges, I went with one of the public colleges. The tuition was way cheaper at the public college and it was a competitive school with a good business program. Most importantly, I didn’t need private loans.
I decided to commute to school, not to live on campus. Commuting saves a lot of money. So, I lived rent free at my Mom’s place, plus food was free too.
The plus side of this decision was not having to borrow money for college, therefore I wasn’t saddled with debt. The downside was I didn’t go away to campus. But, the name of the game is to make wise decisions with some sacrifices, while still accomplishing your goals.
Sacrificing the campus experience may not sound great at the moment. You want to be independent of your parents and live thru the experience. But, is it really worth it if you have to be indebted for so long to pay for this particular experience?
There will be so many more experiences after college and you’ll need some money to live them. Not having college debt after graduation means you can buy a house, start a family, travel, start your own business, travel some more. See is not the end of the world if you don’t live on campus.
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2.Get a part-time job
Another thing I did while attending and commuting to college was work part-time. My part-time work pay for some of the tuition. The other part was funded by Federal grants. I attended school in metropolitan New York, so it was easy to find part time jobs nearby school.
Working may mean a delayed graduation by a couple of semesters. But, it’s worth it. You earn money and avoid the loans, plus you gain real work experience.
The Gig economy also allows you to do work from home and even become an entrepreneur early. Explore ways to do side hustles while you attend college and use your earnings to help pay for school. Check out this post, How to start your own blog.
3.Attend a Community college
Community colleges are cheaper than senior colleges and you commute to them. I din’t go the community college route, but I know some of my classmates and friends who did.
Community colleges are a great way to save money and to find out what you really want to do in school. The first two years of college are required to be filled with general course work anyways, before actually doing your Major’s work. So, a community college makes good sense if you’re not sure what you’re going to major in college.
The two friends who opted for community colleges did well. One transfer to a Senior college and majored in business. The other became a nurse. None of them took private loans to fund their higher education.
There are so many scholarships for students with decent grades. Scholarships funds should be at the top of your list when looking for money to attend college. There are some great scholarships if you have high grades, but there are also plenty for average grades students. Scholarships are gifts, you don’t have to pay them back.
Scholarships are based on academics, athletics, cultural background, type of major, geographic location etc. Your High School career resources is a good place to start investigating these sources, but also use the internet. Also, find out from your college of interest what type of funding they may offer.
Here are some of the resources to find personalized scholarships on the internet
Collegeboard.org – This is a good site for college planning and also to find scholarships funds to attend college. You need to complete your profile to register for the site and to obtain customized information.
Fastweb.com – Another good resource site, you need to register by completing your profile thoroughly. The site offers college information and funding resources.
Salliemae.com – This site has information for financial aid for college and loans. But, it also has resources for free scholarships thru many organizations.
Niche.com – This site helps you find college and scholarships money. This site offers contest opportunities to win money to attend school.
5.Federal and State Grants to go to college
These grants are generally reserved for students with financial needs. They are also known as college financial aid. You can use the FAFSA.gov website to apply or the Department of Education for this free money to go to college. Every college bound student should apply for these grants to find out if they qualify.
Find out if your employer offer partial or full tuition reimbursement. This is usually free money paid by your employer for you to go to college. Companies like Starbucks and Walmart have tuition programs for their employees, if you’re planning to work while you go to school, these two companies may make sense for you.
Here you can read about 10 income ideas for side hustles
7.Special Private Scholarships to pay for college
There are private scholarships based on your academic credentials, background, future major and other attributes that you can apply for. These are distributed by private corporations and other organizations. These types of scholarships tend to be very competitive and you need to apply early.
These are some of the private scholarships to fund college:
Awarded to students who can demonstrate strong leadership and academics, these fundings are usually granted to students scholars.
Bottom line – with so many sources of funding for college plus your own part-time or full-time jobs, there is no need to take on high debt to go to school. If it is necessary, try to minimize the amount of loans you take to attend college. Consider all your options in terms of type of college, sources of funding, living on or off campus etc.
Staying debt free while attending college is one of the best investment you can make for your future. You’ll get a degree, but won’t be stuck with the debt. This way when you start your post college employment you can begin saving, traveling or doing what you wish with your money.
It’s good to remember that students loans is not Free Money. These funds have to be repaid at a cost. Also, the most expensive colleges aren’t always the best ones.
My personal bottom line was staying out of debt while I obtained a higher eduction. I accomplished this by choosing a competitive Senior public college, living at home and using Federal grants plus part time work to fund my studies.
Tell us what you’re planning to do or did to fund yours or your child college education. Use the comments section below.