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How to Get Through College Without Student Loan Debt

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Did you know today the average college graduate is leaving school with more student loan debt than ever before?

Students leave college, and enter the workforce, yet they’re unable to find jobs that compensate well enough to easily manage their minimum student loan payments.

Had big plans for when you graduate college? With student loans, you can kiss some of those dreams goodbye.

Moving out of mom and dad’s? Uh, probably not. Buying a house? Can’t afford it — your student loan payment is pretty much the cost of a mortgage. Going on a vacay? More like stay-cay.

Rather than accepting a fate filled with student loan debt, swim up river and do what it takes to get through college without student loans.

Didn’t think it was possible?

Just in case no one’s told you, paying for college doesn’t require student loans. There are several tactics and things you can do to make money, find money and reduce costs for your college education and come out, you guessed it…

Debt free.

Fund Your Education

Man wearing a red sweaters, smiling excitedly in front of a blue brick wall. Get excited for your education and get free money to learn!
Photo by Bruce Mars via Unspalsh

1. Apply for FAFSA

While this might seem like a no-brainer, it apparently isn’t.

In 2018 alone, $2.6 BILLION in FREE money for college went unclaimed by over 600,000 eligible students. That means free money these students could have used to cover their school expenses went to waste.

When you apply for federal student aid (FAFSA), you are automatically screened for eligibility for federal pell grants. If you’re found to be with financial need, they’ll literally throw free money at your education that you never have to pay back.

Do yourself the favor and apply for financial aid. It literally costs you nothing, but a bit of your time to apply.

2. Apply for Scholarships

Not only is the federal government looking to give away free money, but foundations, organizations, rich people, etc. they’ve got money and they want to give it.

You can find scholarships for practically anything these days. Into zombies? There’s a scholarship for you. Infatuated with dolls? Yup, money’s waiting. Interested in creating a greeting card? You could win 10,000 smackers.

Gone are the days when you needed to have a traumatic, sad story to win money. You can find scholarships easily, and because so many students aren’t taking the time to apply? Your chances of winning free money is so possible!

My brother-in-law applied for scholarships and I kid you not, the brotha has raked in thousands of dollars for his college education. Don’t miss out on this low hanging fruit!

3. Military-Based Funding

Female in military outfit sitting in front of a door. Let the military pay for your college education and be student debt free.
Photo by Jessica Radanavong on Unsplash

Are you or your parent a military vet? If so, you can possibly receive tuition assistance for college.

The military provides certain veterans and their dependents tuition assistance. Up to $4,500 is available per year and it won’t take from your GI Bill.

Learn if you’re eligible here.

4. Work-Study

Did you know some colleges will cover some of your tuition in exchange for working on campus? Both full-time and part-time students with financial need can be eligible for the work-study program through FAFSA.

What’s even better about the work-study program is that they do their best to supply you with positions in civic education and work related to your course of study. That means you can potentially get your tuition partially covered, in addition to getting relevant work experience. #WinWIn

5. Work and Study

Don’t qualify for FAFSA’s work-study program? Why not create your own opportunity?

Being debt free takes hard work, so give it all the gusto you’ve got. Find a job, start a side hustle, work what you can, and help pay for tuition costs.

6. Pay-As-You-Go

Many students enter college and want to just get it over with as fast as possible. In order to do that, they don’t work and they take out tons of loans.

Instead of going that route, why not pay-as-you-go? Going to college isn’t a race. You can take your time, go at your own pace, and pay semester by semester.

So, rather than taking two years to graduate, perhaps it will take you three or four, but when you imagine the alternative (being in debt for what feels like forever), an extra few years doesn’t seem so bad after all.

7. Crowdfunding

Man putting coins into a piggy bank on a wooden table. Ask your family to help fund your education through crowdfunding platforms.
Photo by Sabine Peters on Unsplash

This might sound odd, but crowdfunding is become a legitimate way to pay for college expenses. If you’ve got family members or friends who support you, for your birthday or a holiday (or whenever if you’re ballsy) ask them to donate to your education. With platforms like GoFundMe or IndieGoGo you can easily collect money and set up a donation page.

8. Employer Tuition Reimbursement

It’s claimed that about 60% of employers in the U.S. provide some form of tuition reimbursement. That means by simply working for them you can potentially receive funds to cover your tuition costs or even to payback student debt.

While what employers offer differs widely, take the time to look into it, or you could let free money go unclaimed!

9. Resell Your Textbooks

If you made the choice to buy your textbooks, rather than hanging on to them or throwing them away, resell them.

To get the most money back, you’ll want to resell your books as soon as you’re done with them, and you can do so on sites like Amazon and Sell Back Your Book. While you may not always receive the same amount you paid for the book initially, any money at all is helpful.

Reduce College Expenses

Female student in cap and gown. Reduce your education expenses and graduate student debt free.
Photo by MD Duran on Unsplash

10. Go to Community College First

Rather than heading straight to a university after high school, consider spending the first two years at a community college.

Community college rates are far cheaper than universities which can save you a considerable amount of money. For instance, in California the average community college class unit costs about $40, while one class unit at a university can cost, on average, $300. #Bleh

While community college might not be desirable to you, I say, get over it. You’ll be happier for it in the long-run, trust me.

11. Go to College In-State

I personally went out of state for college, and as awesome as my experience was, I would trade it all for being student loan debt free.

I came out of college with my bachelors degree, but I had $40,000 in loans hanging over me like a dark cloud. Had I chosen to simply stay in-state, I would have only been about $12,000 in student debt (or less) — that’s $28,000 better.

So, really count the cost when you’re thinking of where to go for school. Why get so deep in debt when you can get the same education for a better price?

12. Live With Your Parents

Man kissing woman on her cheek near a body of water. Live with your parents and save on college expenses.
Photo by Esther Ann on Unsplash

Looking back, the one thing I wish I would have done differently is attended a university that would have let me live at home with my parents. Instead I spent thousands of dollars on rent — money that could have went toward my tuition — and I struggled to get by.

So, take it from me, living with your parents for a few more years is far better than being in debt for more than a decade. Save on costs — go to a local college so you can live at home and be debt free.

13. Take CLEP Exams to Receive College Credits

Did you know some schools will grant you college credit if you pass College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams?

If you’re able to pass the exams, then you won’t have to take those classes. Umm… yes please! That can save you time and money.

14. Take Advantage of Flat Tuition Fees

Some colleges offer flat tuition fees for up to 6 classes. What are flat tuition fees? Flat tuition is when the price is the same for a range of class credits/units. For example, three classes might cost the same as taking six classes.

So, if a college near you (or one you’re interested in) offers flat tuition fees, consider applying so you can max out the limit and save some cash.

15. Leave Your Car

Woman in a black hooded jacket, standing beside the street near a white SUV. Ditch your car and save money for your college tuition.
Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

While having a car is sometimes necessary, if you live and work near your school, consider ditching your car.

Think about it. Having a car is expensive. It comes with gas expenses, maintenance costs, and insurance fees. That’s a whole lot of money you could save by simply leaving it at home. Plus, with services like Uber and Lyft, you’ll always have a way to get where you need to go.

16. Find Affordable Rent

While it’s tempting to live in the nicest college pad while you’re in school, consider how much you can save if you sacrifice a little.

Living on campus will always be the worst route when you’re trying to be money-conscious, so don’t do it. Look at off-campus housing only. The further you get from campus the cheaper it tends to be.

If you live in an expensive area, consider getting roommates to help even out the cost of living — share a room if you have to!

17. Make Your Own Food

Rather than spending a bunch of money on eating out, make your own meals. And unlike they portray in movies, you don’t have to live on the ramen-noodles-every-night diet in order to control your costs. Get creative, meal prep, make a grocery list, and be a coupon queen.

18. Rent or Buy Used Textbooks

Assorted books on a wooden table. Rent or buy used textbooks to save on educational costs. Graduate without student loan debt.
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Rather than buying freshly printed textbooks (I know they smell fabulous), buy used or just rent. With platforms like Chegg.com and Amazon you can easily find the used/rental textbooks you need at a much cheaper cost.

Final Thoughts

While everyone else rushes their way into debt, I hope you’ll pick a different path. Student loan debt is truly unnecessary, and there are plenty of ways to avoid it.

Student debt can plague your life for years. Right now you may not have many responsibilities, but in the coming years you will. Whether you get married, have kids, want to start a business, whatever, student loans can put you at a disadvantage for all of those things.

So, if you’re willing to do what it takes to be disciplined, patient, and strategic, you can come out of college banking every penny you earn. That’s my hope for you. Hoping you want that for yourself, too.

If in the end you need to take out a small sum of student loans, I recommend you head on over to Student Loans 101: Everything You Need to Know Now.

Happy Learning!

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