Avoiding Student Loans (yes, it’s possible)

School is back in session, and whether your student is a freshman in high school or you’re going back to college yourself, you’ll have to answer one inevitable question: How am I going to pay for college? With a little outside help and a lot of determination, I was able to avoid student loans completely. The goal is to pay the university for your education, not the university and a financial institution and the government. Avoid student loans to avoid paying interest on your education. It’s tough enough paying for college without interest, don’t make your life more difficult. Here are a few ways I avoided student loans while getting my degree.

1. Save, save, save. It’s tough, I know. But whether you’re saving for your kids or your own college fund, it’s totally worth it. Start a separate savings account specifically for college. Plan to contribute a certain amount each month. Contribute as much as your budget allows you. There are different types of savings accounts, do your research. A 529 grows and also allows multiple contributors. Ask your parents if they would be willing to make a monthly contribution to your little one’s education.

2. Community College. It’s okay to take core classes at a junior college and then transfer them to a University. While this may not be the ideal college experience, it’s definitely the more sensible route. I saved thousands.

3. Payment plans. Some colleges and universities allow students to finance their tuition. A couple smaller payments spread throughout the semester are a lot easier to manage than one huge payment. Check with your college’s registrar and financial aid offices. Sometimes all you have to do is ask.

4. Apply for financial aid and scholarships! Really, this is a given. But every year students either forget or simply choose not to apply because they don’t think they’ll get anything. I felt the same way in high school. Why bother applying for a scholarship that thousands of others are applying for? My chances are slim to none. But guess what? I received several scholarships for college. None of which were athletic. You don’t have to be a genius or an award winning athlete. Sometimes all it takes is to be a first generation college student or a college freshman.

5. Work study. If you can, plan to work during college. Lots of places on or near campus are understanding when it comes to part-time college students. Apply for work study programs offered by your school. These are usualy higher paying jobs that give you the opportunity to study or read. My work study job was an after school program for elementary school students. Their nap time was my study time.

Plan. This won’t happen overnight. But with determination and a little patience, you can pay for a college education without student loans. It is possible.