When you start researching college tuition prices, one thing becomes clear — higher education is expensive. If you’re not interested in taking out private student loans, there are plenty of other ways to fund your college education. By laying the groundwork for your undergraduate education, you can organize financing and graduate with minimal debt. Don’t let skyrocketing tuition fees discourage you from pursuing higher education. Here are five ways to pay for college without taking out private student loans.
Apply for scholarships
One of the best debt-free methods to pay for college is through scholarships. These awards are designed specifically to help ease the financial burden. Unlike loans, you don’t need to worry about paying them back when you’ve completed university. If you have good grades and competitive test scores, look for merit-based scholarships on websites like CollegeData.
Don’t have a strong academic record? Don’t panic. Plenty of universities, non-profits, and third-party organizations offer scholarships based on financial need, community involvement, or extracurriculars. In some cases, organizations give away scholarships based on an essay or contest entry.
Apply for federal grants
Like scholarships, grants are financial awards that don’t require repayment following graduation. When you apply for college, you’ll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). In doing so, you’ll automatically qualify for a variety of federal grants, including the Pell Grant and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant.
The federal government also awards grants to future teachers, military families, and students that fall into other categories. These specific grants usually require an additional application. Along with federal government grants, an aspiring college student can also find grants sponsored by their state government, professional organizations, non-profits, and your university-of-choice.
Join a work-study program
If your college or university is part of the Federal Work-Study program, it can help you find a part-time job to earn extra money while attending school. These jobs are usually flexible enough to work around your class schedule. Since most of these opportunities are on campus, you don’t have to worry about commuting long distances to work, which typically eats up valuable study time.
The amount of hours you work depends on how your school determines the financial need. Regardless of how they calculate eligibility, a work-study program is a great way to make a living without loans. The best part? When you fill out your FAFSA, the government subtracts your work-study earnings from the financial aid calculations.
Consider starting at community college
One way to cut your college costs dramatically is to complete the first two years of your undergraduate degree at a community college. Since tuition is often much cheaper than a four-year college, particularly if you’re an in-state resident, you can save thousands of dollars. If you can attend a local community college and live at home, you’ll save even more. This method is a great way to get all of your gen-ed credits out of the way. Upon completion, you can transfer to a traditional four-year university to take the core classes you need for a degree.
Before you go this route, make sure to verify that the community college credits will transfer directly to your chosen university. Pinpointing how many credits you’re allowed to transfer is also a vital step, as many colleges have limits.
Choose a career that qualifies for Public Service Loan Forgiveness
If attending a four-year school is a non-negotiable, one way to reduce your costs is to select a degree program that will land you a job in public service. To benefit from this program, you’ll need to take out Federal Direct Loans to pay for school. Then, you must work full-time for a government agency or a qualifying non-profit organization for ten years, making payments on your loans during your employment. After that, the government will wipe out the rest of your student loans under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.
If you need to take on a great deal of debt to fulfill your dream of attending a four-year university, this program can slash thousands of dollars off your total costs. To qualify, you’ll need to fill out an employer certification program each year. If you pursue a graduate degree or decide to work for a non-governmental employer, your original payments don’t disappear. The 10-year clock simply pauses and resumes when you return to government work.
Paying for college without taking out private loans can be a challenge, but with some creative thinking and dedication, it’s more than achievable. By finding alternative funding options, you can earn your degree and spend less time paying off debt after graduation.