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Avoiding Student Loans: 6 Creative Ways to Pay for College

These days, having a college degree is a virtual necessity for getting a good job. In fact, around 91% of new jobs are being filled by candidates with at least a bachelor’s degree. 

That’s a staggering statistic for anyone looking to avoid going to college. It also may be a bit heart-wrenching if you do want to go to school but think you can’t afford it. 

If you’re lucky, your parents set up a savings fund for your education. But with tuition costs rising every year it might not be enough to cover it.

The easiest way to pay for school is to take out student loans. There are many options available and they are relatively easy to get. But graduating saddled with thousands of dollars worth of student loans isn’t the most stress-free way of doing things. 

Luckily, there are many creative ways to pay for college without going into massive debt. Let’s take a look at a few here. 

1. Grants

If you have a financial need for college there is literally free money for college available for you to use. This comes in the form of grants.

Federal and state governments and even the college itself typically have various grants that you may be eligible for. The easiest way to find out if you qualify is to fill out the FAFSA or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. 

Even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for a grant (i.e. you think your family makes too much money or has valuable assets) you should still fill out the FAFSA. Around half of students who don’t bother to fill it out would have received some form of assistance. 

Some folks say the application seems too daunting to fill out. If you’re having trouble, just ask for help from the school’s financial aid office. That extra little bit of effort could save you thousands!

2. Haggle with the College

You don’t always have to pay the sticker price when it comes to college tuition. You have a little leeway to haggle with the college.

Of course, schools aren’t flea markets, so don’t go into negotiations the way you would with an outdoor street vendor. But you can negotiate in a respectful way.

Emphasize why you would be an awesome student for their school. Mention any special circumstances that don’t show up on the FAFSA but are causing your family financial strain.

Keep in mind that the FAFSA is displaying last year’s income information. If something has changed, be sure to point that out when talking to the school. 

3. Online Courses or Community College

Regardless of what you intend to study, the first two years of college are basically the same for everyone. You’ll spend those years taking the basic core courses in English, math, humanities, etc.

The most expensive option for your education is a four-year college or university. Of course, you want the prestige of graduating from your chosen school. But that doesn’t mean you have to start there.

Instead, try taking online courses or attend a community college for the first two years. This represents substantial savings over paying for all four years at a four-year school.

Read more here about how online courses can save you a bundle on your college costs. They also tend to be a more flexible option that is easier to work around your work schedule. You can spend that two years studying, working, and saving up to pay for the rest of your degree.

4. Get a Job

Anything worth having is worth working hard for. Going to college is already a lot of work. Between physical time in class and studying, you’ll already be filling up a lot of your week.

Working on top of that might not sound like fun. But the reality is that over 52% of college students work at least part-time. If they can do it, so can you!

It’s unlikely that working part-time will cover all your expenses, but it certainly helps. Every dollar that you’re able to avoid taking out in student loans will save you that much more in the future. 

5. Check out Your Employee Benefits Package

Working while going to school can be another source of tuition money — if you have the right employer. Some companies offer tuition reimbursement packages as part of their employee benefits offerings. 

Some companies will have restrictions and requirements. For example, you may have to work for a certain length of time to qualify or have to maintain a certain grade point average. Be sure to check out what your employer offers.

If you’re still looking for a good job, keep this in mind during your application process. Prioritize companies that offer a great tuition reimbursement program. This is an excellent way to maximize your time as you’re essentially getting paid more for the same amount of work.

6. Work Study

When you fill out the FAFSA, you’ll find out if you qualify for a work-study program. These are typically on-campus jobs where the money you earn will go towards paying down your tuition bill. 

Many of these jobs will align with your particular field of study. This will give you a headstart in the job market upon graduating since you’ll have experience in the field already. 

More Ways to Pay for College

As you can see, there are many creative ways to pay for college. This isn’t an all-inclusive list, either. There are plenty of options out there for someone who is willing to do a little extra legwork.

Paying for college in this day and age isn’t easy, but it is possible. And it is possible to do without going into thousands of dollars worth of debt. Then on your graduation day, you’ll only be celebrating and not dreading when all those loans you didn’t take out start coming due. 

Already up to your ears in student loan payments? Check out our tips for paying them off faster