One of the common beliefs in our culture about post-secondary education is that it is impossible to go to college or graduate school debt-free. My friends, that’s a lie that does not have to define your life.
Quite simply, that’s nonsense. There are plenty of ways to cash flow and fund your education without sacrificing your future earnings to loan payments.
Five ways to pay for your college or graduate school without debt:
- Do well in high school and on standardized tests. This sort of goes without saying, but many schools offer good academic scholarships for prospective students who worked hard in high school, attained a good GPA, and earned high test scores on the SAT or ACT. The higher a student’s GPA, the more likely they will receive academic merit scholarships, and the broader range of schools they will be qualified to apply to.
- Start at a community college. The local community college is something that a lot of high school juniors and seniors roll their eyes at (guilty!), but in the long run, starting off at these schools for a year or two can pay off big time. Community college tuition is almost always much less than a traditional four-year institution. So since you’re going to have prerequisite courses anyways, things like math, history, foreign language, and philosophy classes, doing them at community college can save many thousands of dollars up front.
- Choose an affordable school. You’d be surprised how many objections there are to this point. There is just about every sort of rationalization out there for choosing insanely priced schools and accruing tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of student loan debt. Some students have literally said, “I like the trees at this college.” Really, trees? When this amount of money is on the line, the deciding factors simply can’t be the trees. Prospective students ought to look for a college or graduate school that they can truly pay for. The average cost of a private four-year college per year is about $32,500. For a public out-of-state four-year college, it’s about $24,000. But a public in-state school is about $9,500 a year. A two-year community college averages about $3,500 a year. These are staggering differences!
- Fill out the FAFSA and apply for outside scholarships. Did you know that in 2015, there was nearly $3 billion of unclaimed scholarship money in America? That’s right, three billion with a b! A large portion of students did not fill out the Free Application For Federal Student Aid before they went to college, and ended up paying a lot more than they could have because they missed out on opportunities for grants, which don’t have to be paid back. Another option is to apply for scholarships online. The internet affords us more access to money than any civilization could have ever dreamed of. There are tons of scholarship opportunities from all areas of the world available online. A good tool to use is MyScholly.com. This service helps match up relevant scholarships that you or your college-bound child is qualified for. Don’t leave free money on the table! Some due diligence can pay off big time!
- Work part-time during school. Many of us worked part-time during school and we got through okay. It’s not going to irreparable damage to take on some work and help pay for tuition. One objection may be that a student may not have enough time to study if they work, but what often happens is that working students do better academically than non-working students. I can speak personally and say that as I am working part-time as a financial coach, after one year of law school, my GPA stands at 3.44. So if you or your prospective student is worried about paying for school and getting a good GPA, maybe get some extra work!
These are just a few ways to get that degree without taking out loans. The idea that college without loans is impossible is simply not true. If one puts in some effort, it is certainly possible. But are you willing to put in the work? That’s up to you!
What are some other ways to pay for college and graduate school without debt? Share your thoughts with me! And be sure to check out Anthony ONeal’s new book on how to pay for your degree as well!