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How to Go to College Without Using Student Loans

by Kevin on July 23, 2012

Student loan debt is at record levels and promising to go even higher. The sad fact is that the typical middle class family can no longer afford the six figure price tag of a college education on a five figure income. Student loans are being taken to fill the gap. The average student debt load today is over $25,000 and will be a financial drag on graduates for much of their early adult lives.

If attending college will require that you take student loans, consider some of the following as ways to get a degree without the kind of expense that force you to borrow money.

Live at home

One of the biggest expenses related to getting a college education is room and board. And if the school is out of state you can also add travel costs to the mix. The point is, living away at college is expensive and adds substantially to the amount of debt needed to pay for college overall.

By living at home and commuting to a college nearby, room and board will disappear. If you live in an area where there are no colleges nearby, look into online programs. Many colleges are now offering these as the internet extends its influence to education.

Living at home will also open up some other options…

Work your way through school

One of the best ways to cut down on the cost of a college education is to work while you attend and create your own pay-as-you-go system. This can be especially effective if you also live at home—you’ll have no room and board expenses, and the income from your job can go toward tuition, books and other fees.

There’s another bonus benefit that goes beyond generating an income to pay for school: when you graduate, you’ll already have work experience. The experience may not be directly related to your degree program, but in today’s tough job market (especially for new graduates) having work experience from one or more jobs could be the deciding factor for that first post-graduate position.

In-state colleges

Tuition at in-state colleges is generally about half what it is for non-residents, so you can cut your college costs substantially just by attending a school in your home state. Combine this with living at home and working while you do, and you could very well eliminate the need to take student loans at all.  If you’re currently looking for a masters of organizational leadership, then consider the various programs within your state.

Community colleges

This is the more local version of in-state colleges—public colleges that are located in your own community. This is just about the lowest cost tuition you’ll find anywhere and it has the added advantage that you can earn an associates degree after two years. The curriculum generally matches that at four year schools, keeping in mind that at many four year schools you don’t declare a major in your first two years anyway.

Work for a year or two, save money, then go to college

Most people want to get their education over with as soon as possible, but taking a year or two off from school actually has several advantages:

  1. The most obvious is that you can save up money to help pay for college later
  2. If you aren’t sure what to major in, working for a year or so can help you decide
  3. Taking time off school can be a time to recharge and refocus if the thought of another four years in a classroom doesn’t exactly excite you
  4. Working full time can set the stage for a better paying part-time work situation if you decide to continue working in when you’re back in school
  5. It’s even possible that you’ll work in a field that you’ll want to turn into a career, at which point work and school will be a complimentary combination

College costs are high and getting higher, which is the primary reason why so many students are taking on student loan debt. The only ways to avoid this will be to think outside the box and to try and find ways to both reduce the cost and provide income sources to help pay for it.

There are other options too of course!  Before heading off to college, you could also consider a pre-college summer program such as Summer Study. They offer the opportunity to study abroad in Europe. This option would allow you to explore various options and experience something truly unique and different when compared to college right away.

Does the idea of earning a college degree and graduating debt-free motivate you?

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