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How To Pay For College Without Debt

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Attend A Cheaper School

Financial Aid Strategy: How to Pay for College without a lot of Debt

How did I manage it? It started with a difficult choice. As a native Georgian born to a family obsessed with college football, I grew up believing it was a foregone conclusion that I would attend the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia.

But when I entered my junior year of high school and needed to seriously consider what colleges to apply to, my parents told me that while they supported my dream to go to UGA, they couldn’t help me financially. If I wanted to go to UGA, I’d need to pay most of my own way.

That meant taking out student loans to do it, so I decided to attend a lower-cost school: Kennesaw State University , in Kennesaw, Georgia. For my freshman year in 2008 at KSU, the total tuition and fees was 31% less per semester than UGA. This decision alone significantly reduced my cost of college.

What’s The Difference Between What You Can Afford And What You Owe

The final step in determining how much aid you need is figuring out the difference between your CoA and the amount you can comfortably afford. The difference will be the amount that you can get covered with financial aid, including grants, loans, and scholarships.

Anything that remains uncovered is your responsibility to pay. For example, if a schools CoA is 50k and you get 20k in grants and 20k in federal subsidized loans, 10k will be your responsibility. You can pay the amount that year, take out private loans or PLuS loans, or a combination thereof.

Ways To Pay For College Without Incurring Debt

Debt from college tuition has skyrocketed over the last several years. Parents and students are weighing their ROI before making their college choices. As college costs have shot up, so has student debt. The Federal Reserve Bank reveals some alarming statistics:

  • Americans owe almost $1 trillion on their student loans, 310 percent more than a decade ago.

  • In 1989, 9 percent of households had student debt. Today nearly 20 percent do.

  • The average amount of student loan debt has increased 177 percent since 1989.

  • 56 percent of all student loan debt is owed by households headed by people 35 or older.

  • 47 percent of total student loan debt is held by households with incomes below $60,000.

Thats the bad news. But if youre a savvy consumer and research the costs before signing on the dotted line, you should be able to go to college without incurring debt. Zac Bissonnette, author of DebtFree U, is proof that it can be done. He graduated from college with zero debt.

Believe it or not, you may be able to graduate without debt if you take consider these 10 ways to pay for college:

1. Take AP and Dual Credit Courses

According to the College Board, tuition varies but the breakdowns make it clear: tuition is expensive.

  • In-state tuition for a public four-year college: $7,605 : 30 credit hours = $253.50/credit hour

  • Out-of-state tuition for a public four-year college: $19,595 : 30 = $653.16/credit hour

  • Private four-year college: $27,293 : 30 = $909.76/credit hour

3. Go to work

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Your Choice Of School

Put simply top-rated schools tend to have more money, which means they can offer more generous financial aid packages. Some schools even claim to cover all unmet financial need.

Whether you attend a public or private college will also affect your net costs. Private schools tend to cost more than public in terms of sticker price, but they tend to have better financial aid programs. Public schools are relatively inexpensive for state residents, but can be very pricey for out-of-state applicants.

First How Much Does College Cost

How to Pay for College With No Money on Your Own / Debt ...

The first step in understanding how to pay for college is having a good understanding of what your expenses will be.

For the 2014-2015 academic year, the average cost of tuition and fees for one year was:

  • $31,231 at private colleges
  • $9,139 for state residents at public colleges
  • $22,958 for out-of-state residents at public colleges

This is the cost that people typically consider when they think of college expenses. Unfortunately, theres a lot more to the picture than just tuition costs – there are also hidden or implicit expenses associated with spending a year at college.

These other annual expenses include:

  • Room and board – averages $11,188 at private colleges, $8,804 at public colleges
  • College textbooks – average cost is about $1,200
  • Travel costs – these will vary widely based on the student
  • Lab fees and supplies – these will come to about $50 per class if they’re not already rolled into fees
  • Personalexpenses – most students budget about $2,000/year to cover personal costs like toiletries and entertainment

Lumping together all of these expenses will give you a schools real sticker price – the Cost of Attendance. Its pretty easy to get an estimate of a schools CoA- just google cost of attendance.

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Apply For A Lot Of Scholarships

Make applying for scholarships your part-time job. Im not talking about applying for 5-20 scholarships. Apply to 1,000 or more. Even if you only have 80% of the qualities theyre looking for in an applicant, it doesnt hurt to apply.

Look at local companies in your area when finding scholarships. Many of the smaller local scholarships arent marketed as widely and take a little more digging to find. Check the places your parents work as well since they will sometimes have one for employees families only.

Scholarships of a lower monetary value usually have fewer applicants since people think its not worth the effort. If a $500 scholarship only takes 20 minutes to apply for and you get it, thats a great return on investment. Far more than you make spending that same time at a retail job.

Choose Your School Wisely

Contrary to popular belief, this doesnt always mean choosing the school with the lowest sticker price. If you can qualify to get into an elite Ivy League school, for instance, you might find that they charge absolutely no tuition. Some of the most well-known schools have the most robust financial aid programs, even for upper-middle-income families.

The key here is to apply broadly to different schools. Try some local schools, which well talk about in a moment, that have a lower sticker price. But consider more prestigious, expensive schools, too. Then, compare the schools based on their actual cost after non-loan financial aid is applied.

Once this is done, choose a school that you can afford, but one that also has a strong program for your area of interest. Remember, future employers care less than youd think which school your degree comes from, as long as you have taken the right courses and excelled in your program.

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Tapping Financial Resources Outside Of Student Loans For Your College Degree

College students in the U.S. are struggling to cover the rising costs of tuition, fees room and board as prices hover at $16,188 for public institutions and more than $40,000 at private schools. Although students have traditionally borrowed to pay for college, this option can leave students with considerable debt after graduation. The class of 2016 was saddled with an average student debt load of $37,172.

As a result, students must search for alternative ways to pay for higher education expenses, whether through scholarships and grants or in non-traditional ways like crowdfunding and work-study programs. This guide breaks down these four ways to pay your way through school and keep your higher educational journey completely debt-free. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Ways To Pay For College Without Going Into Debt


Posted June 16th, 2016 By Guest Blogger

With all the media attention revolving around student loan issues, it can make many of us feel as if taking out student loans to pay for college is the only option. Students are taking out loans larger than ever before, and the combined national student debt grew to a whopping $1.3 trillion earlier this year. However, there is good news for fiscal-minded students who want to graduate from a college without the pressure of college loans.

The biggest secret to graduating without student loans is an earnest time commitment and a little detective work. It is a great idea for inspiring students to research through student debt advisors to acquire maximum knowledge and also read through the various student loan forgiveness programs. For intelligent aspiring students who wish to graduate without student loan debt, here are five ways to make it happen:

1. Employer reimbursement. Many modern businesses are now offering tuition reimbursement for full time or part time employees. Bigger brands and companies may offer these programs to make themselves more competitive all while helping employees defray college and university costs.

If you have a creative mind and enjoy writing, making crafts, cooking and baking, then you may start selling crafts, food, cakes, pastries, cookies or start your own blog. If you are active on social media you can also try running a crowd funding campaign to raise money for school.

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Attend A More Prestigious University

This seems counter-intuitive, but often the more prestigious colleges, while more expensive, have more funds available from wealthy donors. When I prepared to transfer to a four-year university from community college, I chose between a local division one university and a Big 10 university.

While I thought it would be more financially feasible to attend the division one university because it had a lower tuition rate, it turned out it would have actually been more expensive. Why? The Big 10 university had many donors with deeper pockets, and therefore could offer me more grants and other aid outside of student loans.

However, weigh the different options unique to your own situation. Local state universities offer reduced tuition rates to students who have established in-state residence, so they may be a better option for you financially.

Apply For State Grants

While scholarships are usually merit-based, grants are typically awarded based on your financial need. If your family income isnt especially high, consider state grants for college.

In Indiana, for example, there are grant programs available for:

  • Undergraduates with financial need
  • Adults returning to school
  • For attending trade schools

Like scholarships, grants are a form of gift aid that almost always doesnt need to be repaid. You should always prioritize this type of cash for college over other options, especially student loans.

You can learn about grants available in your state by contacting its higher education authority via the Department of Education. Here are some opportunities organized by situation:

Read up on grants for
Paying off student loans

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Community College Transfer To Four Year Programs

Earning an associate degree in two years and then transferring to a four-year program could save students tens of thousands of dollars. Two-year schools are significantly less expensive, and they allow students the opportunity to complete nearly all degree prerequisites. Just 17% of community college students take out federal student loans, compared to 48% of students at four-year public institutions who use loans to finance their education.

Take Advantage Of Rebates

How to Pay for College Without Student Loans

There are a number of apps that allow you to claim rebates for the things you purchase. One of the best of these is Ibotta, which essentially pays you to purchase certain items. The list of stores and products is extensive, allowing you a ton of options. To make the most money, scan the app before you shop so you know which products and brands will get you the biggest rebates.

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Attend A Community College First

Many recent high school graduates are eager to attend a university, but attending community college can be a good option for the first two years. Community college costs are thousands of dollars cheaper per semester than the expenses of most universities.

In addition, community college courses are much smaller than large university lecture halls, and can provide you with more personal attention when taking your prerequisite classes.

The Psat Matters For Scholarships

Most people think of the PSAT as the practice for the SAT. They also think that it doesnt matter and may not even do preparation for it. Besides, its the SAT that matters, right?


The PSAT is the National Merit Scholarship qualifying test. That means if you dont do well on this test, your chance for a National Merit Scholarship is gone. The top scores become National Merit Finalists and are awarded scholarships. The PSAT score cutoff for National Merit varies depending on which state you live in.

PSAT scores are also used as a qualifier for the National Hispanic Recognition Program which looks great on college applications.

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Going To College Without Debt

Student loans cripple your future savings power. Graduating college is already one of the most expensive times in your life between getting an apartment, graduation, moving, and transportation. Paying off thousands in student loan debt leaves many people living paycheck to paycheck.

This millennial mamma learned the hard way regarding going to college. While my student loan debt wasnt as large as many peoples, it was significant and set my retirement savings and ability to build wealth back a few years.

Ive learned from my mistakes and will implement these options when it comes time for my son to go to school. College isnt the path for everyone but if you do decide to go, there are many other options besides the traditional student loan route. It is possible to go to college debt-free if you plan ahead and are open to untraditional options.

This post may contain affiliate links. That means if you purchase an item through these links, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. Please read the full disclosure policy for more info.

Take Advantage Of Employer Reimbursement Programs

Is A “Debt Free Degree” Possible? | How To Pay For College WITHOUT Student Loans

There are a ton of different companies that offer to pay either half or all of an employees college tuition. This include IBM, UPS, Chipotle, Chrysler, and Starbucks, to name a few. In fact, for any employee working a minimum of 20 hours a week, Starbucks offers to pay half of their tuition through freshman and sophomore year, then full tuition reimbursement for their junior and senior year. Most of these companies dont even require the employee to remain with the company after graduation.

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How To Get Through College Debt


Imagine: graduating from college with no debt. An amazing 70% of college students graduate with significant amounts of debt. Some 44 million Americans together hold $1.5 trillion in student loans. The average amount owed is $37,172. But according to Rick Kahler, president of Kahler Financial Group in Rapid City, S. D., its possible to collect your diploma and not owe a penny, and without rich parents paying the freight. Heres how:

Larry Light: By what magic can you get a college bachelors degree debt-free?

Rick Kahler: This may be harder than it used to be, but with planning and commitment it can still be done. There are several possibilities to think about.

One is to shop for college like any other large purchase. Not every school offers the same quality of education nor does paying more ensure better quality. lists the best value colleges in America by academic quality per dollar for 2019. Leading the list is the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a quality rating of 95 out of 100 and a cost of $10,936 per year.

Light: How do starting salaries for that first post-collegiate job figure into the equation?

MIT students received average salary offers of $70,300 in 2015 according to Business Insider, while SDSM& T students received $61,346 in 2016.

Light: What steps can you take as a student to lighten the financial load?

Light: What about taking longer to graduate, as cost-savings strategy?

Become A Paid Note Taker

You are already going to go to class and take notes, so why not get paid for it? In many universities and colleges, the disability resource center needs note-takers.

The notes are for other students who are unable to attend or unable to write their own notes.

I was asked to do it one semester. I didnt know that existed before then. The pay is not much, but it did help pay for one of my books the following semester.

If something like this doesnt exist in your school, create it.

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Start Living On A Budget

The bottom line on paying for college without student loans is that you have to make good financial choices. And that all begins with having a budget and sticking to it. Even if youre making minimum wage and living on Ramen noodles, a budget will help you make the most of every dollar. Free budgeting tools like Personal Capital can help you track exactly where your money is going and even keep tabs on your 529 account balance.

Ways To Pay For College Without Student Loans

9 ways to pay for college without student loans

Student loan debt in the U.S. has reached $1.55 trillion including both federal and private student loans.

Its no secret that college isnt cheap, and the price of education is continuing to increase year after year.

Federal student loans can be a great way for students to get help paying for school, but they dont always cover the entire cost. And depending on the college, students are graduating with tens of thousands of dollars in debt with no hope of paying it off anytime soon.

Turning to private loans is even worse, as they typically come with much higher interest rates, fees for late payments and other concerning features that make them less favorable to federal loans.

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