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How to Go to College and Still Graduate Debt Free

Updated on November 22, 2011

Avoiding The College Debt Trap

For many college students, including myself, going to school can be an expensive debt trap. It's a lot of work but it IS possible to go to college or grad school and still be debt free!

You will have to be diligent to keep the financial system at bay, since they encourage and expect students to take on debt to complete their education.

All of the university people are there waiting to jump on you, they call it "financial aid".

  • According to the College Board, 54% of the $105 billion in financial aid distributed in 2002-2003 school year was for loans. During this same time, the average cost for tuition was $19,710 at a private university and $4,694 at a local university. Earning a four-year degree would cost $60,064 more at a private college.
  • According to Sallie Mae, Students who used credit cards to pay for part of their education reported an average credit card balance of $3,400 at the time they left school, compared to the average balance of $1,600 for those who used credit cards for emergencies only.

One major way to cut college costs is to attend a community college for the first 2 years. Housing and food will be cheaper since you are close to home, and you can get a part time job with some friends or family businesses.

Plus this gives you plenty of time to finalize what you want to major in, and what your career path will be. Why would you want to spend around $20,000 just to figure that out.

These days, most people assume you need to pay a massive amount of money for a quality college education.

As a result, students and their parents are willing to go into years of debt and potentially sabotage their entire financial futures just to get a fancy name on their diploma.


Grants and Scholarships

Take advantage of scholarships and grants! They start around $200 and go up, every little bit helps. Unlike student loans, grants as well as scholarships do not have to be repaid.

Pell Grant: Awarded to undergraduate students from lower-income families.

Academic Competitiveness Grant: Awarded to undergrad beginner as well as sophomore students demonstrating tutorial excellence.

Merit-Based Scholarships: Awarded to students who denote academic, or inventive talent.

  1. Student loans are NOT a necessary evil. Middle class families can find ways to avoid them, even without scholarships.
  2. College "rankings" are useless-designed to sell magazines and generate hype. If you trust one of the major guides when picking a college, you face a potential financial disaster.
  3. The elite graduate programs accept lots of people with non-elite bachelors degrees. So do America's most selective employers. The name on a diploma ultimately won't help you have a more successful career or earn more money.

This is an investment into your future, if you have to work part time while going to school it's WORTH IT! Only a few years of hard work, will dramatically pay off in your future. This is the time where you are becoming an adult and taking on a lot more responsibility for your own life. START OUT RIGHT, and be smart!

Debt-Free U(niversity): How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching off My Parents

Scholarship Handbook 2011

Getting Financial Aid

Remember you can always get roommates, buy used books, and eat meals at home.

There are many ways to cut corners and save money while investing in your education.

Focus on learning and not on living extravagantly, and you can be debt free after college!


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    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 6 years ago

      This is information I am going to pass on to my students. I agree that costs will be lower by attending a community college the first years. Good hub!