One of the hardest aspects of going to college is figuring out how you are going to pay for it. It’s a scary thought, especially when the average cost for a 4-year degree from an in-state college is $110,000 (Collegedata.com). That’s a lot of money!
How Long Does It Take To Pay Off Student Loans? The national average is 21.1 years!
Fortunately, there are some strategies that almost everyone can implement that will help you graduate with no student debt.
First, I want you to set the goal that you want to graduate college without student loans. This will be your motivation, the entire reason you will work hard. Once this goal is set, do not give up. Start with a plan. The plan will help you map out your course of action, it will allow you to keep track of your progress and it will keep you on course. It will be through good discipline and sacrifice that you follow the plan. Remember an ambitious goal requires considerable personal sacrifice. Embrace the pressures you may feel and celebrate your milestones. Don’t worry if you stumble along the way, get back up and don’t give up.
Let’s graduate college with no debt…
1. Concurrent Enrollment, Dual Enrollment, And AP Courses
You can save a lot of money when you are enrolled simultaneously in high school and college classes because they are typically free. Tuition and fees are waived for high school students so take advantage of this if you can.
Concurrent enrollment was how I started college at 13 and graduated with my MBA at 20. Concurrent enrollment puts you on an accelerated academic path and is my number one recommendation. It is the fastest way to earn a college degree in the shortest amount of time for anyone going into high school or still in high school. I received my high school diploma at 16 and my AS in Business Administration at 17. I had an Associate degree before most students graduated from high school with their diplomas. Here is my concurrent enrollment story,
Advanced Placement (AP) classes are college-level classes that can be taken during high school. Many high schools offer AP classes in a variety of subjects. If you enroll in AP classes during high school you can save a lot of money because many colleges will award you credit for those courses. In addition, AP courses are free. AP classes allow students to save money on tuition costs by earning college credits before they get there.
2. Attend A Community College
You will get tired of reading how frequently I preach community college. There’s a reason why I recommend it so often. It can literally save you thousands of dollars. This is not an exaggeration to try and convince you, it’s a fact. Community college tuition is vastly cheaper than university. My community college tuition was approximately $1,370 per year while my university was approximately $7,400 per year.
If you attended a community college for the first 2 years, you will pay over $10k less for your degree. You can save even more if you live at home. These are huge savings you can’t pass up.
There are approximately 20 states where community college is free. If your state has free community college you’d be foolish not to take advantage of it. If a student takes the right number of credits (a full semester load), they have the potential to earn an associate degree for free. It doesn’t get more efficient than free.
3. Choose An In-State State University
In-state public universities are often the least expensive option, and many of those colleges rank highly. You will pay less for college if you choose an in-state public college.
Tuition is one of the most expensive aspects of attending college. Out-of-state tuition can be double, often triple the cost of in-state. For this reason alone, choosing a college out-of-state is foolish unless you’re getting a full ride, therefore, I recommend against it.
According to Educationdata.org, the average cost for the 2021-2022 academic year for tuition is, public out-of-state: $22, 698. Public, in-state: $10,338. The national average is double, and these numbers do not include room and board and other additional expenses. It just doesn’t make sense to pay twice as much for the same degree you can get in-state.
4. Get A Job
Every penny counts. Getting a job, full-time or part-time is a good strategy to help pay for college without loans. Many businesses will pay for college while you are collecting your paycheck. They do this via tuition reimbursement programs. Tuition reimbursement is an employee benefit where an employer pays for college coursework that is to be applied toward a degree. Here is a list of Companies That Will Pay For College Through Tuition Reimbursement.
Also, you can get an online job or a side hustle. Here’s a great list of online and work-from-home jobs, The Best Online And Work-From-Home Jobs For College Students.
5. Live At Home Or With A Family Member
When you go to college housing costs are the highest cost you have, they are higher than tuition. Typically, they are double tuition. This expense is where you will spend less on college and save the most. I cannot emphasize this enough, this is going to be your biggest savings.
You need to live with your parents. I will repeat, the best financial decision you can make while going to college is to live with your parents. If that’s not possible then find another family member. Do you have a grandparent, uncle or aunt, or cousin that lives near a school? Reach out and asked them if you can stay with them. Explain that you want to save money, you want to pay less for college. Strike up a deal, you can help take care of the house, yard, or animals in exchange for room and board. You can give them a small amount of rent. Most people want to help someone who is working hard.
When you live at home or with a family member you also save on other costs too. For the most part, I didn’t grocery shop, my mom did. I didn’t pay utilities; power, water, phone, internet, television, or for household items; cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, toilet paper, bedding, towels, etc.
6. Pay As You Go
Instead of taking out a loan, pay as you go. Many colleges now offer payment plans that allow students to split tuition payments into smaller monthly payments. The monthly payment plan is NOT a loan; therefore you DO NOT pay any interest.
Do a little research to see if your college has a payment plan. Payment plans typically look something like this: you will need to complete a short form online which will allow you to pay your tuition and fees with monthly payments deducted from your credit card or bank account.
7. Apply For Scholarships
Make searching and applying for scholarships a priority. You will get tired of it, trust me I know but it’s a must if you want to save money. You will write essay after essay trying to convince some mysterious panel of people that you are worthy of a scholarship. I probably applied to over 100 of them. Once you write a few good essays you can simply modify them slightly to fit the scholarship requirements so it will get easier over time.
There so are different types of scholarships, some get pretty wild. However, there are basically 3 types of scholarships, need-based, merit-based, and minority-based. Know what you can apply to as it will refine your search and save you time. I encourage you to apply for every scholarship that you can.
If you need a little help navigating the scholarship process check out, How To Get Scholarships For College.
It goes without saying if you qualify fill out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). I’ve earned 3 degrees and never filled out FAFSA once. For those of you who don’t qualify for financial aid, don’t think you can’t get a college education without a student loan or federal financial aid. I’m proof that you can.
8. Start Early On
You can start saving for college early on. Work a part-time job while in high school and during the summer work full-time. Find a side hustle, babysit, dog sit, host a yard sale, or resell items online. If you get money for birthdays, or holidays save it. Every penny you make, add it to your college fund.
9. Save On Every Day Purchases
Trying to pay for college without going into debt is hard. Money can get scarce when you are trying to pay for tuition and books while rushing to class and cramming for tests. Fortunately, many businesses show support by offering student discounts. There are student discounts for everything from car insurance to clothing and food.
I’ve found, in some cases, student discounts in stores are not always obvious. If you’re at a local restaurant or other retail business be sure to ask if there is a college discount. You’d be surprised at how many times there are.
Here is a huge list of companies that will give student discounts, The Best College Discounts.
10. Spend Below Your Means
Spend less than you earn. That is probably the number one financial recommendation. It seems obvious, but if you don’t learn to live on what you earn, you won’t get ahead. You must have money left over each month, if you don’t you’re not living below your means.
Create a budget, and make sure what you are spending is less than what you are earning. Use your budget as a guide to controlling your spending. Finetune your budget and see where you can save. If you can’t spend below your means then you must cut costs. Cancel memberships and subscriptions, don’t eat out, skip the daily coffee, drive a cheaper car, you get the idea. Avoid these top 5 things students waste money on.
Budgeting is so important because it not only shows you where your money is going but it helps you save money.
Sensei Side Note:
If you have family who is willing to help pay for your education and living expenses don’t turn it down. Be appreciative of any assistance you receive and honor those who are helping you by using your money wisely and getting good grades. Your family will recognize your hard work and commitment to staying out of debt and sometimes even a gift card or free meal can go a long way for a college student. While receiving help is amazing, don’t expect or ask your family to go into debt for your education. It is not the responsibility of your family to pay for your education entirely.