Ways to Pay for College Without Loans

Posted October 25, 2021 by in Career

Going to college is a monumental achievement for some high school students. All your hard work has finally paid off, and now you can take the steps towards your career path.

However, paying for college is an entirely different problem that you have to face. Many take out loans to fund their education which is why the average student loan debt for college graduates is around $38,000.

Fortunately, there are various ways to pay for college without loans. Are you interested in learning more? Take a look at our guide below:

1. Using Your Own Money

One of the easiest methods to pay for college without applying for loans is saving and using your own money. You’ll need to have funds that can cover your yearly tuition fees and other living expenses.

It’s never too early to start saving for college. So if you’re in your early years of high school, you should begin saving now to lessen any debt upon your college graduation.

How can you start saving for college? Talk to your parents about opening a savings account with your local bank.

Once you do, set a certain amount for yourself that you want to save every week. As time progresses, your savings should grow into a nice nest egg that you can use for college expenses.

2. Applying For Grants 

How can you get free money without having to pay it back? Apply for various grants.

Grants are money given away by the government or institutions to help mitigate educational or professional costs. There are various options available online that you can apply to.

However, each will have specific criteria that you need to meet. So if you want to use grants to pay for college, save time by only applying for those you qualify for.

3. Choosing An Affordable School

Telling your loved ones that you’re going off to a prestigious school is sure to bring a lot of smiles and congratulations. But that also means that they’ll come with a heftier price stage. 

For example, if you were to go to a private college, the average cost would be roughly $39,000. But if you were to go to an out-of-state public college, it would drop to $22,000. Going to an in-state public college would cost around $10,000.

So although the school may be well known, ask yourself if you can afford to go there. Yes, you want to get a good college education. But your other aim should be to leave without any massive debt.

4. Five-Year Master Program

It’s essential to find creative ways to pay for college, even if that means prolonging your degree for another year. If your degree needs a master’s level education to be effective, enroll in institutions that offer five-year programs.

Schools like Brown University offer a fifth-year Master’s degree program for various majors. With this option, you won’t have to take out another loan. Instead, all of your costs will be added together, lowering the overall price.

5. Applying For Financial Aid

For any student that’s looking to go to college, they need to file a FAFSA form. It lets students know how much the school can offer them towards the tuition costs, plus other forms of aid.

Most students use it for loan processing. However, you can apply for other types of financial assistance such as:

  • Work-study programs
  • Federal grants
  • State aid

There’s no income cutoff to be eligible for financial aid, so ensure you apply. You may be surprised at the amount of support you receive.

Also, make sure that you meet FAFSA filing deadlines. They can vary by state and institution, so regularly check a potential college’s website to see when you must submit the form

6. Live Off-Campus

Living in a dorm is seen as the foundation of the college experience. You share a standard size room with another person and learn the ropes of young adulthood together. 

However, for some, living in a dormitory may be more of a luxury than a necessity. Depending on where you live, living on campus can cost between $8,000 to $10,000

If you don’t want that high cost, you can always opt to live off-campus. Prices of apartments will vary by location, but you’ll save more money in the long haul since you’re splitting rent with other roommates.

7. Get a Job

There are some situations where individuals can’t afford college, even with financial aid. It may be due to the low offer they received, or no grant applications were successful.

However, it still doesn’t mean you need to take out a loan to pay for college. Instead, why don’t you get a job?

There are various seasonal jobs for college students, such as:

  • Working on a resort
  • Being a rideshare driver
  • Various restaurant jobs
  • Babysitting

Many businesses will always look for extra staff, especially around Christmas time. So take a look at job boards and see what positions are available. Find what interests you and earn some cash to help with your college fees.

8. Take AP Classes

Throughout high school, if a student has exemplary grades in a specific subject, they’ll get the opportunity to take an AP class. An AP, or advanced placement class, is a college-level course taught for college credits.

Upon the course’s completion, the student will receive college credits that can go towards their degree. In some cases, it may waive an entire class.

College credits can be expensive, so you won’t need to take out a loan if you can avoid taking certain classes. But it’s important to note that AP classes can be challenging.

As mentioned above, it’s college-level work that teaches critical thinking, research, and time management skills in depth. So don’t feel any pressure if you’re not up to the challenge.

9. Try Community College

For some reason, there’s a negative stigma attached to community colleges. Some individuals believe that going to college is supposed to be about going away to a four-year institution, not a two-year school in your area.

However, the cost is always a factor in attending college, and community colleges have affordable price tags. Also, most of these institutions have high educational standards, so you will still get challenged academically.

If going away and living on a college campus is high on your priority list, you’ll still be able to once you finish at your community college. You’ll get awarded an Associate Degree, which you can use to apply to four-year institutions.

So now you’ll have lower educational costs since you won’t have to pay for a full four years of college. Also, depending on your major, some credits may be prerequisites for other classes, taking away additional costs.

10. Streamlining Your Degree Track

It’s great to be ambitious when choosing your college major and subsequent career. However, you’ll need to choose a major that can allow you to make money right away.

If you choose a degree track that takes six years to complete instead of four, you’ll be paying large portions of money longer than intended. Also, if you don’t have a focus, you’ll end up paying for courses you don’t need.

So streamlining your degree track is vital to ensure you don’t have to take out loans for college. If you’re about to enter college, have a general idea of what you want to do.

Then take some time to meet with your academic advisor about potential classes you should take. You may end up shaving a semester off and save even more money since you’re on the right track.

11. Applying For Scholarships

Like grants, scholarships are another way you can get free money towards your educational costs. There are various scholarships available from a variety of sources such as:

  • Local businesses
  • Community institutions (Library, rec center, etc.)
  • Educational organization

To find out about scholarships, do a Google search online. You’ll see various sites stating what scholarships are available and how you can apply.

If you’re having trouble finding scholarships online, you can also talk to your guidance counselor at school. They can provide resourceful information about potential opportunities.

12. Taking Advantage Of Employer Reimbursement Programs

Are you currently working? If so, then your employer may be able to pay some or all of your college tuition.

A company’s employer reimbursement program will pay for their employee’s education under specific requirements. It will vary from company to company. 

For example, some companies may want you to maintain a certain GPA to maintain the reward. Other’s may ask you to work a minimum amount of hours. 

Either way, it’s a great option to look into if you don’t want to take out loans for college. Also, in most cases, you don’t need to remain an employee of that company after you graduate. 

13. Ask For More Money

Many students believe that when they receive their financial aid decision from an institution, they’re stuck with that amount. However, it’s entirely acceptable to negotiate your aid.

To appeal your decision and get more money, write a letter to your institution’s financial aid office. In the letter, discuss:

  • Your current financial situation
  • The increased amount you’re looking to receive
  • Why you’ve chosen and are looking forward to attending the college

After sending the letter, follow up with a phone call a few days later to get an update on your appeal. Remain polite as you navigate the situation because it could be the difference in your claim getting approved or denied.

14. Just Ask

Many people have trouble asking for financial assistance because they don’t want others to see them struggling. But when you’re a college student, every little bit counts.

For example, instead of getting a gift for your birthday, ask family members and friends to send you money instead. You could decrease a payment size or use that extra cash as savings towards your emergency fund.

If you need additional help, you can always crowdfund on sites like Fundly or GiveCampus. They’re great resources that help students fund their educational necessities.

Most individuals understand that certain college students will require financial assistance from time to time. So they’ll be inclined to help since they were once in that position.

15. Start a Small Side Hustle

You might be one of many individuals that don’t want to work as they go through college. So instead, you can use your skills to start a small side hustle.

Do you have some graphics designing experience? You could put those designs on T-shirts and sell them. Or, if you were a writer, you could become a freelancer and look for various paid opportunities.

There are various side hustles you can choose from. Look at your skillset and see what you’re able to monetize.

16. Join the Military

If you’re out of ways to pay for college, enlisting in the military may be an option. If you serve before going to college, you’ll receive a GI bill, which covers the cost of your total tuition for a public university and half for a private.

So not only are you serving your country, but you’re also getting your education paid for without coming out of pocket or taking out loans.

Paying for college can be daunting for any potential student. However, there are multiple ways to pay for college without loans.

You can start savings before going, get a job, apply for scholarships, or live off-campus. Any of these methods, plus the others mentioned above, can help you limit your college debt upon graduation. Remember, loans are the bad guy.

If you’re interested in more tips about the high school to college transition, feel free to check out our blogs for related content.

*Photos by Keira Burton