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Affording Higher Education: How to Pay for College Without Loans

College-bound? You’ve probably heard of student loans. If you can’t cover the costs of college with cash, a loan is one way to bridge the gap between available resources and expenses. Student loans are a viable option for some people, but they can also be an immense burden.

According to the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities, the average debt among those who take out student loans is over $25,000 for a four-year degree! Needless to say, having to worry about paying off this debt after graduation makes it harder to enjoy life after college. You may find yourself struggling to afford to get married, start a family, buy a home, launch a business, and save for retirement.

Since you’re here, you might be wondering how to pay for college without loans. Fortunately, there are numerous financial aid options and other ways to pay for tuition and fees.

1. Take Advantage of Scholarships and Grants

Students who qualify for scholarships and grants should take advantage of them. There are so many out there—chances are, you’re bound to qualify for something. For example, there are scholarships for students that show academic excellence and grants for economically disadvantaged individuals. The great thing about these awards is that they are essentially free money. Unlike student loans, you don’t have to worry about paying them back later.

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2. Get a Paid Internship or Part-Time Job

One of the best ways to pay for college without relying on student loans is by getting a paid internship or part-time job. There are several benefits to working while you go to school:

  • Earn extra money to offset college expenses
  • Gain valuable skills that can help you land a good job after graduation
  • Get work experience that you can display on your resume
  • Work with professionals in your field
  • Grow your network (remember, your network is your net worth!)

3. Apply for Financial Aid

Not everyone is eligible for financial aid, but there’s only one way to find out whether you are. Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to apply for it. This is an online form that you can complete in 20 minutes.

After submitting your FAFSA, you’ll receive an electronic award letter from each school you applied to. This letter lists your total financial aid package, which includes all grants, scholarships, and loans available to you. Each school may offer a unique package amount, so you may select the one offering the most aid.

We recommend completing the FAFSA as early as possible. Schools have deadlines for receiving applications, so don’t wait until April rolls around!

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4. Go to Community College for the First Two Years

Attending community college for the first two years is a fiscally responsible way to earn a university degree. You can get your general education classes out of the way, then transfer your credits to a four-year institution. From there, finish the coursework for your degree at your dream four-year college and graduate with less debt (or better yet, none at all)!

Since junior colleges are generally less rigorous than their four-year counterparts, you may even be able to juggle a part-time job during this time. Consider taking classes at night or on weekends so you can work more hours without disrupting your studies.

5. Consider Trade Schools

The truth is that not all careers benefit from four-year schools. You may get more out of attending a trade school depending on your career goals. For example, if you strive to become an electrician or plumber, then going to college might not be worth it because these jobs only require an associate degree or a certificate. But if your dream job is to become a doctor, then going straight into college makes sense. This profession requires a four-year degree and graduate school before you can start practicing.

If you want to save money in college, think about what you want to do after graduation. Trade schools offer a plethora of career paths, and graduates can earn high salaries. Moreover, you’ll get hands-on training that gives you an edge over other job seekers without experience in your field.

6. Explore a Side Hustle

Side hustling is a fantastic way to earn extra cash and build your resume. It doesn’t have to relate to your major, but it should be something you enjoy doing. For example, if your passion is writing, you may produce content for magazines or online publications on a freelance basis. Love sports and working with kids? Becoming a personal trainer at the gym or coaching Little League baseball may be more up your alley. If photography is one of your hobbies, think about offering portrait sessions or shooting weddings on the weekends.

Need more ideas? The possibilities are endless:

  • Pet or house-sitting
  • Dropshipping
  • Selling handmade goods on Etsy
  • Tutoring
  • Graphic or logo designing

Whatever you choose to do, make sure it’s flexible. Most students have an unpredictable schedule due to classes and homework assignments, so your side hustle needs to complement this. The last thing you want is to fall behind in school because your business is taking too much out of you!

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7. Choose an Online Program

Did you know? The average cost of tuition and fees for the 2022-2023 school year is more than $10,000 per year at an in-state public university. If you go out of state, it could easily double. In contrast, you can expect to pay an average of $10,776 less for your Bachelor’s degree at an online university. This can be a boon for your wallet—and your stress levels.

Thanks to the many e-learning options available today, people of all ages and life stages can get a quality college education. You may find it easier to earn your degree online if you:

  • Are raising small children
  • Are taking care of your elderly parents
  • Have to work a full-time job

If you enjoy learning but can’t accommodate a rigid class schedule, a virtual program may be perfect for you. Not only are online schools more affordable, but they offer increased flexibility so that students can learn at a pace that suits them.

8. Lean on Your Family for Financial Help

Most people coming out of high school can’t afford college on their own. So don’t be shy about asking your family members for support.

Living with your parents can help save on rent, which is a monumental expense for many college students. This will put you in a better position to pay for school without taking out any loans. You can also avoid student loans by borrowing money from family members. You’ll still have to figure out how to pay them back later, but at least you won’t have to worry about interest fees!

Prepare Today for a Bright Future

The idea of affording college can be daunting. It’s easy to panic and stress about how you’ll pay for it without falling into debt. But there are ways to make it work without taking out student loans—and it doesn’t have to be complicated.

With countless options at your disposal, there’s no reason to let debt hold you back. Having a plan is paramount no matter what stage of life you’re in or what career path you choose. We hope these tips will help you enjoy a fruitful college experience without letting money worries get in the way!

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