Do you have to take out loans to go to college? No, you don’t.
This may shock some of you, but I promise that it’s possible.
Whether the future student is you or your child, it is beneficial to know of all possible ways to pay for college without loans.
Many of the most well-known grants are the federal kind, such as the Pell Grant. These are typically part of a school’s total financial aid package and are available to students pursuing their first undergraduate degree.
Pell Grants are also based on need. You will have to fill out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) in order to be eligible.
But these are not the only grants available. State governments also have grants for education and there are many private organizations with grants for members of a certain population (for example single mothers or those wishing to become teachers).
You don’t have to rely on just what is available through the federal government as there are thousands of grants out there.
Most of us are familiar with scholarships, but many of us believe that they are only available to sports stars and academic geniuses. That could not be further from the truth.
In fact, there are scholarships available for just about every type of major, population group, average sports player, musicians, writers, aspiring journalists, and so on.
What is required on your part is a little more time in research in order to find opportunities out there.
Some scholarships are one-time only and some can be renewed. Many are only a few hundred dollars, but add them up and you can pay for school with a number of these scholarships. And remember, like grants, these do not have to be repaid.
If your child has not started college yet, I highly recommend having a savings account for college education expenses.
Most people think that since they didn’t start saving when their child was a baby that it makes no sense now, but if your child is still in high school, then simply put the money in a money market account with check-writing privileges.
This way you still have a place to put money for college but you won’t incur the penalties of traditional college savings plans.
This is also a great idea if you are an adult returning to school so that you have one account to use for education expenses and this money does not get mixed in with money for household expenses.
Another avenue of savings is from the income your child makes if they have a job before they get to college. Though they may not make much money, it is still important for them to learn the importance of budgeting their money and saving to pay for what they want.
4. Working while in school
When I got my first degree from the United States Naval Academy, I obviously did not have a part-time job. I was getting a paycheck as being a member of the military.
But when I got my second bachelor’s degree years later, I did work while in school. In fact, at the University of Baltimore, just about every student works in addition to going to school.
There are even certain majors where, because so many of the students are working during the day, classes for those majors do not begin until the evening.
But even if you are at a more traditional university or college where it seems like no one works while they are in school, the part-time or full-time work will continue to give you work experience while allowing you to pay for your education expenses.
If you can get a job on campus that is an added benefit, as your employer really does understand that your schoolwork is important. In fact, during my time at the University of Baltimore, I worked for a few months at the library and found it to be a great experience.
5. Start at community college
You may not have the money to begin your studies at a four-year school. If not, community college is a great option because of the low cost. Many community colleges have articulation agreements with four-year schools so that you can be sure you are on the right track when it is time to transfer.
Another bonus is that if you finish with an Associates’ degree first, depending on your chosen field, you may be able to begin working in that field, gaining valuable experience, while you are pursuing your bachelor’s degree.
Also, remember that there are some occupations out there that only require an Associate’s degree to enter the field (such as Veterinary Technicians). Be sure you are getting the education suited for what you want to do.
6. Go to a state school
Although I graduated from the United States Naval Academy, I did not have to pay to go to school to have a great name on my diploma.
But, outside of service academies, does it really matter where you went to school? I don’t think so and many employers don’t think so either.
The fact of the matter is that state schools cost less and that may be the route you need to go for education. Harvard and Brown sound nice, but can you afford it? If not, go where you can afford the bill and make sure your child (or you) get the most out of the institution as you can.
When I was looking at getting a Master’s degree I thought it would be really cool to go to Johns Hopkins University, but when I saw how much the tuition was, I realized that I was better off going someplace I could afford.
That’s not to say that Johns Hopkins is the best place in Baltimore to go to school, because it is a good school. I had to make a decision based on factors other than name alone.
7. Attend school part-time
Although going to school full time might get you done faster, it may not be the best option for your wallet (or your child’s wallet). You can still get plenty of scholarships and other financial aid if you only attend school part-time.
That’s not the issue. You may need the extra time to work or to take care of other obligations. Move on a timeline you can afford and make a plan for when you will finish your studies.
There are few undergrads and graduate programs where the course load requires a full-time commitment. If you or your child will be studying in a program like this, make sure you know all of your financing options and do your best to get your money together in advance.
Often, because these are usually professional programs, you can get scholarships and grants geared to the specific profession (such as social workers or lawyers).
The most important thing to remember in all of this is that you have options. It does not matter if you are starting late with college savings for your child or you are going to school yourself.
The point is to remember that, with a little digging and perseverance, you can fund a college education to study what you want and graduate with no student loan debt. Doesn’t that sound good? I thought so.…