Is It Possible to Go to College Without Student Loans? Try These 5 Options First

It seems so easy for someone who wants to go to college to take out student loans. All they have to do is sign the dotted line and the money they want is right there. But if you ask anyone currently paying off their student loan debt, you’d hear a lot of stories of struggle. 44 million Americans currently owe $1.53 trillion towards their loans.

Student loan debt is forcing young Americans to put off major life goals. They simply can’t afford to do them with this weight on their shoulders. Many can’t even afford the minimum monthly payments. And again, when you see how much tuition is, it’s easy to resort to loans. The solution is to save loans as the last possible resort or it can hamper your life later.

In many cases, parents have tried to save for their kid’s education. Yet, even they weren’t prepared for the major cost, especially if they have multiple teens in their home ready for that next stage of life. Fidelity conducted a survey that found parents were overwhelming underprepared for their child’s college education costs. That leads them to resort to student loans.

Before you take out a mortgage just to pay for your education, you should look at these other options. By doing them all, it’s possible to pay for school on your own. Even if you still have to take out some student loans, at least the burden will be lessened.

1) Scholarships Are Available

Listen, there are scholarships for everyone out there. Regardless of your child’s major, interests, skin color, race, culture, there’s someone out there who has put up a scholarship. The problem is, it takes a lot of diligence to go out of your way to research all the different types. Then you have to sit down and apply for each one you’re eligible for.

Don’t just apply for the big scholarships either. Every little bit will help bring down your student debt balance by the time you’re finished with your degree. Sallie Mae reports that scholarships can cover as much as 28% of tuition on average. That’s a major chunk taken out of your student loans if you can take the time to apply.

2) You Don’t Need to Go to an Expensive School

At the end of the day, a degree is a degree. You may thing there’s some prestigious mentality to going to a big four-year school, but really, there’s not. There’s no shame in getting your Associate’s degree at a community college, which would save you a ton of money in the long run. In a lot of cases, lower-income people can escape community college debt free.

Many states like Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Virginia have free tuition to smaller colleges for students. More states are starting to institute programs like this to give young adults a good head start. By going to a smaller school and then getting their Bachelor’s at the school of their choice, will pay only a fraction of the student loans. Saving money is about making better decisions.

3) There’s Federal Aid Available

Last year, high school graduates left behind $2.3 billion in unclaimed federal financial aid. They chose instead to take out student loans. Many students qualify for financial aid through the government. It combines grants, loan offers, and scholarships in a program called FAFSA. It’s free to fill out an application.

Many students don’t run towards the FAFSA because they feel it’s time consuming to fill out. The problem is, by doing it, they can save $3,583 per year. That can go a long way towards paying for books, putting a dent in tuition, and other housing costs. Again, every little bit helps to bring down your total debt.

4) Get a Job

Yes, we get it. The last thing you want to do when studying for classes is to have to worry about a job. But many people have to do it in order to survive. It will be hard work, but you’d be thankful in the end if you do. Between scholarships, aid, any savings you had before, getting a job can take care of the rest. It certainly beats paying student loans for the next 10-20 years.

There are plenty of side-hustles and jobs you can do in your spare time. Driving for Uber is one. Do whatever you can to pay off as much of your room, board, and tuition while you’re in school. You will thank yourself later on! You can even do a work-study program through the university or college. They are needed jobs that need to get done around the campus.

5) Have Your Job Pay for College

Another great thing about working while in college are the various job programs out there. Companies like Starbucks, Walmart, Publix, and Wells Fargo all help workers pay for their tuition. If you work 20 hours a week at Starbucks, then you qualify for their Starbucks College Achievement Plan.

You have to work at Publix for about six months before their plan kicks in. If you average around 10 hours a week at least, they can help pay up to $12,800 of your tuition. Wells Fargo will straight-up reimburse tuition for their workers up to $5,000 each year. Their children can even apply for certain scholarships worth up to $3,000.

Many other companies offer some tuition assistance and will help pay off your student loans. Even after you graduate, many large companies offer a program that works like your 401(k) that will pay off student debt. It’s worth the check to see if your work offers any kind of assistance.

At the end of the day, any little bit you can knock off your tuition will be worth it in the end. No one will care where you got your degree from. There’s no shame in spending less and going to a community college. Taking the time to apply for aid and assistance is worth it considering the thousands in extra interest you’d have to pay on that later. And working a job won’t be too difficult. Many thousands of college students make it work.

If you still end up needing more money, at least taking out student loans won’t be too much of a burden and your total is reduced by thousands of dollars.

Last modified: May 3, 2019