If you’re like most people, you probably have a pretty one-dimensional view of college. You think: “I’ll go to school, get my degree, and then get a job—and voila! I’m set for life.”
But the truth is that while going to college will certainly help you land that dream job, it doesn’t mean you’ll be able to pay for it without taking on a load of debt.
In fact, you might find yourself with tens of thousands of dollars in student loans after graduation as the state tuition is continuing to rise and has increased 212 percent in the last 20 years while the average wages have only increased to 56 percent, leaving no choice to students except for taking private and federal loans.
And this is the reason that today more than 44 million students in the U.S have taken out student loans and are still in debt.
But here’s the good news, there are still plenty of ways to pay for college without taking out student loans! In this article, we’ll share 12 different ways people have paid for college over the years—without going into debt.
How To Pay For College Without Student Loans?
Don’t get hung up on the student loans. Sure, they’re an excellent option for most people—but if you’re not one of them, don’t feel bad about looking elsewhere.
Here are 12 ways to pay for college without loans:
- Apply for grants
- Build your budget
- Attend community college
- Negotiate with your college
- Use a 529 plan or Coverdell account
- Crowdfunding your tuition
- Work part-time
- Get Benefit From Employer Reimbursement Programs
- Ask your friends and family
- Join Military
- Apply for scholarship
- Pick up a side hustle
Apply For Grants
Grants are free money from the government that you don’t need to pay back. You can apply for federal grants through FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), which is available every year on October 1st and must be completed by March 2nd of the following year.
To get a better idea of how much money you may qualify for, use the Federal Student Aid’s Net Price Calculator. This calculator will give you an estimate based on your current financial situation and grades.
It’s important to note that these calculators only provide estimates, and results may vary depending on other factors like your family size or income level.
Build Your Budget
Before you run off to fill out the FAFSA application, sit down with your child or children and create a budget. The best way to do this is by using a spreadsheet or other type of software that allows you to create columns and rows to see where each dollar goes.
It’s time-consuming, but it’s worth it in the long run because it will help get your family on track financially before entering college.
Attend Community College
Community colleges are often less expensive than four-year universities, so they can be a great place to start your post-secondary education if you’re on a budget. In fact, as per CollegeBoard figures, two-year public community college fees come in at just $3,800 for the 2021-22 years.
Community colleges offer two-year associate’s degrees and career training programs that can help students transfer to four-year colleges and universities.
These colleges also offer technical certificates and diplomas that allow students to earn credentials in specific trades. These programs are often more affordable than traditional undergraduate degrees because they don’t require as much time or money upfront, but they still provide valuable training in high-demand fields.
Negotiate With Your College
Ensure you’re getting all the financial aid you’re eligible for by requesting a copy of your Student Aid Report (SAR) from the Department of Education (ED).
If it turns out you’re eligible for more aid than ED has calculated, ask your college how you can make up the difference. There’s no harm in asking!
Use a 529 Plan or Coverdell Account
529 plans and Coverdell accounts allow you to save money tax-free for college expenses.
The money grows tax-free while it’s invested, and withdrawals are tax-free if they’re used for qualified education expenses like tuition, fees, books, supplies, and equipment required by the institution.
You can also use the funds to pay for room and board at some schools.
Crowdfunding Your Tuition
Crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe and Indiegogo offer a unique way to raise money for tuition and other educational expenses.
You can create a campaign on one of these platforms, set a fundraising goal, and then share your link with friends, family members, and coworkers via email or social media.
If you have a compelling story or an inspiring cause (for example, if you’re raising money for someone who is terminally ill), then there’s a good chance that people will donate generously to your campaign.
Working part-time is a great way to help offset the cost of college. The more hours you work, the more money will be available for tuition, room and board, books, and other expenses.
Working part-time can also look good on your resume or application when it comes time to apply for jobs after graduation. Many colleges even offer on-campus jobs during the school year that can help cover some of your expenses.
Get Benefits From Employer Reimbursement Programs
Employer reimbursement programs offer employees money toward college costs, including tuition and fees, textbooks, supplies, and childcare. The amount may vary by company, but many offer up to $5,000 per year in tuition reimbursement benefits.
To qualify for these benefits, employees typically must be enrolled full-time in an undergraduate degree program at an accredited college or university within the United States or abroad.
Ask Your Friends And Family
If you have a close circle of loved ones on which you can rely, consider asking them for financial assistance.
This is one of the easiest ways to pay for college without student loans because it does not require any paperwork or credit checks. However, it’s important to remember that not everyone has this option available.
The military offers many benefits that could be attractive for recent high school graduates looking for a way to earn money for college without taking out a loan.
Those who enlist will receive free education at any military base worldwide during their service time and, upon discharge from active duty, may qualify for the Montgomery GI Bill or Post 9/11 GI Bill, which provides money for tuition, housing, and other expenses related to higher education.
Apply For Scholarships
Scholarships are a great way to cover some or all of the cost of your education without having to take out loans.
Scholarships can be based on your academic performance, extracurricular activities, leadership skills, or any other characteristic that makes you unique.
The more competitive scholarships are very rare, but they do exist — especially if you’re looking at top-tier schools.
Pick Up A Side Hustle
If you’re already working, you might be able to pick up another job to help pay for school. You can also look into working during the summer or during breaks if your school offers those opportunities.
If you’re not already working, try starting a small business or offering services as an independent contractor on sites like Fiverr or Upwork.
- Related: Good Side Hustles
Wrapping It All!
So, you want to pay for college without student loans? In that case, we’re happy to tell you that you’re in the right place. We’ve done all of the hard work for you and compiled a list of 12 ways to pay for college without student loans.
These are all tried-and-true methods that we know will work for students like you who are looking to make it through their education on their own dime. Take some time to read through them, and think about which one might be right for you!