A college education is one of the largest investments people make in addition to a mortgage and it’s only getting more and more expensive. With these rising costs, it’s critical for students to try to find the best ways pay for college without taking out student loans.
Student loans not only have to be paid back, but they must be paid back plus interest. This means that the average amount borrowed, currently hovering around $30,000, would end up costing about $39,967. While that might not seem like much of a difference in comparison to $30,000, that is nearly an extra $10,000! And many graduates, because of this student loan debt, are finding it hard to make ends meet because they have to fork over anywhere from $300 to $1,200 per month towards these bills.
Many state universities have agreements with local community colleges that allow students to participate in a “bridge program." This means students can knock out their first two years of college at the community college and then transfer to the larger university without losing any of their credits. Typically, these are only general education classes anyway so students still receive their core major classes at the larger institution.
If you are worried about the diploma, don’t. It comes from the state university and looks the same as everyone else's - just with half the bill amount!
Institutions can offer more money until it is gone. Of course, there are typically stipulations surround the money. Still, they dictate the grant money based on your FAFSA (explained below) and hold the merit scholarship money as well. Even some athletic programs have flexibility. One important thing to know is financial aid is always on a first-come-first-serve basis so once it’s gone, it’s gone. That said, don’t be afraid to ask and, if you do, do it as soon as possible. Click here or read this article about negotiating for college.
And if you aren’t sure where to start, here is a step-by-step post on how to negotiate tuition.
Scholarships and Grants are types of free money that don’t have to be paid back and cover most expenses. For grant money, students must submit the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) by the tax deadline each year. Typically, grants are given based on financial need, however, there are grants to support certain careers the government wants students to major in such as teaching or STEM career fields. Scholarships, on the other hand, exist for nearly any topic and are not always based on financial need. It doesn’t matter if a student has a 2.5 GPA or is not low income. There are scholarships out there for nearly any student. And the best part is that the money can be used for nearly anything depending on the provider, including tuition, fees, books and more.
Eliminating or reducing many college expenses can save tens of thousands of dollars over the course of four years. Can you live at home? Dorm rooms cost over $1,000 per month these days. Do you find yourself frequently eating out or grabbing a latte? Swap for home-cooked meals and coffee. That would have saved me over $1,000 my first semester alone. What about books? Those “new” editions are usually just chapters moved around. I always bought 2-3 editions back and saved hundreds of dollars per semester.
Related: If you already have student loans, try refinancing them with LendEdu. they save students on average $300 a year. Click here to check them out.
Starbucks is a great example of this. They offer free tuition through Arizona State University which has over 60 undergraduate degree options to choose from. You can read more about the Starbucks College Achievement Plan here. And they aren’t the only one to do this. Here is a list of 15 companies that will help you pay your college tuition.
Working your way through college completely is nearly impossible these days, however, having a part-time job or work study can help pay for smaller expenses so that you don’t have to borrow money for them. Even if you have too much on your plate during the school year, saving the bulk of your money from a part-time job over the holiday breaks can eliminate thousands of dollars from your student loan bill.
If still in high school, a great option is to take classes which offer college credit. This can be through the Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate Programs where students take classes in the high school and test for college credits at the end of the year. It can also be through a dual enrollment program where students take classes through a local community college and receive both high school and college credit for the courses. We have seen students enter college with enough credits to be a junior! This is certainly a way to help cover the costs as these programs are typically free or a very low investment.
Ultimately, the goal is to have to borrow as little money as possible. While some of these methods may require some work on your part, your post-undergraduate self will thank you when you don’t have a huge student loan bill each month.
If you are reading this and you already have student loans, I encourage you to check out LendEdu for refinancing options. They have a wonderful program that can save you money on your monthly payments. Check out LendEdu or read our review on setting up your account.
Jocelyn is the founder of The Scholarship System, a blog and online resource covering a 6-step process that helps families pay for college with scholarships and avoid student loan debt. She, herself, secured over $126,000 in scholarships, graduating completely debt free, and has since helped other students and families secure over $624,300 in scholarships with her online course.
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