How To Graduate College Totally Debt Free

ways to go to college without student loansEach year college is becoming increasingly expensive. The costs of a college education today are 500% greater that they were in the 1980s. Today’s children will be paying tuition totaling $70k – $80k for an out-of-state public school. That’s just tuition. Fees, books and living expenses will more than double the cost. Students are graduating school with tens of thousands (even hundreds of thousands) of dollars in debt and it’s just going to get worse.

For the diligent student, though, it’s still very possible to graduate from a great school totally debt free. Not only does that help your finances, it’s helps your career. Without the burden of massive student loan debt after graduation, you can focus on finding the right job not the one that is going to pay your debt off the quickest.

How is that possible? If you can graduate without accumulating student loans, why don’t more people do it? It takes work. But the work is worth it.

Cutting Your Tuition Bill in Half (or More)

The cost of an in-state public college is half that of a private school on average. On the extreme ends of the spectrum, the difference is dramatic. An education at an Ivy League school will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars whereas there are a number of schools where in-state tuition and fees are less than $25k for the full 4-years.

It may make you feel good to namedrop a well known institution; however, studies have shown that the school that you attend has minimal impact on your earning potential.

Another option is to look into alternative education programs. Programs designed for working adults often offer flexible schedules, fees and payment options that are a better deal than a traditional program. These programs aren’t limited to select degrees either. Gwynedd Mercy graduate programs even offer a doctorate of nursing though an alternative program.

Seek Scholarship Opportunities

While the statistic that billions in scholarship money goes unclaimed each year is false, it’s true that there are thousands of lesser known scholarships with very low competition. Don’t rely solely on online searches. Talk to the faculty at the school. They will likely know of scholarship opportunities that aren’t widely publicized.

Don’t neglect scholarships that only award a few hundred or a few thousand dollars. These are  typically easier to win and every dollar helps. It doesn’t matter if you win one large award or ten small ones. Every dollar you are awarded is one less dollar you have to pay.

Paying the Rest with Cash

If you chose a low-cost school and you are awarded scholarship money, your out of pocket cost will only be a few thousand dollars at most each semester. Unless you have unusual obligations, you probably have time to pick up an extra job. An extra $500 or $1000 per month will likely allow you to pay cash for any remaining balance.

Sure, an extra job isn’t fun, but imagine graduating college completely debt free. That 4 years of hard work will pay off for the rest of your life. Down the road, you won’t care about the name of the school that you went to, the time spent applying to obscure scholarships or the long nights of an extra job. You’ll just remember the fantastic career you landed because of your hard work and the fact you didn’t have do go tens of thousands of dollars in debt to get there.




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  1. I can’t claim to have known what I was doing in terms of finances or frugality, but I ended up doing just about everything “right” when it came to paying for my college education. Part of it I got cheaply at a community college. Part of it I got at no cost through scholarships and grants. Part of it I “paid in kind” by working at the college cafeteria. And part of it I got “discounted” by taking subject-specific tests that would give me credit for the courses if I passed the tests (which I did). So I ended up graduating with no debt.

    I’m not sure what I or my family would have done had we had the money for a standard middle-class funding of my college education. But we did not. So I had to get creative about it. I guess I did!

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