Student debt is at an all-time high. Statistically, student debt is second only to home mortgages in terms of total value, so it’s no surprise that student loans are a big talking point in politics and in general conversation. College today is not cheap, and prices have been steadily increasing over the years. Tuition cost for public and private colleges has more than doubled since 1997, and the increase has even outpaced inflation.
Loans are one way to ensure that you get a quality education, but they also come with long-term financial repercussions that can make post-college life difficult. If you want to minimize the amount that you borrow, or eliminate the need for a student loan, then you’ll need to know about the creative ways that you can fund your higher education.
Not everyone will have this luxury, but, if you haven’t yet started college, then you can start planning to help offset some of your expenses. A part-time job in high school can help you to start saving in preparation for college. Put your savings into a high interest account (such as a certificate of deposit) and you will be able to watch your money grow.
Working throughout high school might not seem like the ideal way to spend your youth, but the long-term benefits offset any sacrifice that is made now.
Another option is to take a gap year from studies so that you can work and build up some savings ahead of college enrolment.
Work While You Study
College can be intensive with long hours of tuition, lectures, and study. However, even with the most intensive undergraduate program, you will likely have some significant downtime. Take some of this time to relax and revitalize, but also take the opportunity to start making some money.
A part time job in college can help to offset your tuition and living costs, and depending on the job you choose, you could eliminate the need for a student loan. You could leverage the skills that you have in creative ways, carving out a spot for yourself in a niche industry:
- Find a job on campus. College campuses are communities within themselves, and there is high demand for services. Security, food services, and even maintenance work positions are often available. Student services can often help you to find jobs on campus.
- Sell a service, such as note taking or even tuition. You can provide services to other students and boost your income, which will offset the amount of student debt that you need to take on.
- Find a job with tuition reimbursement. Some employers offer to help pay the cost of tuition. Starbucks is one company that offers this in some locations.
- Do you have a car? Consider driving for Uber in your downtime to generate income.
- Look for a paid internship related to your field of study. Internships are sadly underutilized as a means to reduce student loan debt. Look for local companies that will help you to achieve your goals.
Other Creative Ways to Pay for College
Working is one way to reduce or eliminate debt, but there are other options on the table. The most obvious is to find a scholarship or grant program that will contribute to tuition costs. Some colleges offer free tuition if you fall below a certain income threshold.
Another option is to live off-campus and commute to college. Dorm accommodation averages at around $10,000 per year at public universities. Although it’s not quite as glamorous, studying at a university closer to home could save you up to $40,000 while obtaining your degree.
You could also try the 2+2 method. This is where you study at a community college for two years, before transferring to a public college or university for the remainder of your degree. Make sure you choose a program with transferrable credits (a career advisor can help with the details). The average community college in the United States costs less than $3500 per year of tuition. Taking two years at one of these schools would significantly reduce your potential for student debt.
With some creative thinking, sacrifices, and a lot of planning, you can significantly reduce or even eliminate the need for a student loan while studying. Reducing student debt will allow for a significant amount of freedom when you graduate, allowing you to move onto other goals in your career and personal life.