It goes without saying that the cost of college is high. Although you might wonder why college is so expensive, figuring out how to pay for college is essential for a prospective student. To avoid struggling financially in the future, you want to pay for college without loans, as private student loans, federal student loans, and other private loans are more costly in the long run.
According to Statista, graduates who took out student loans have an average debt of $27,000. To learn how to afford college, you need to know where to look for financial aid. Keep reading this article to discover the types of aid available to students and the many ways to pay for college without accumulating debt.
How Much Does College Cost?
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), the price of attending a four-year school as a freshman was $25,000 at public universities and $53,200 at private non-profit universities for the academic year of 2019-2020. The cost of tuition rose by 13 percent from 2010 to 2011, demonstrating that the cost of tuition is continually on the rise.
These figures are reflective of the total cost of the institutions’ published tuition and fees, the cost of room and board, books and supplies, and additional expenses per institution. These costs also vary based on the location of the university, the degree you want to pursue, and other miscellaneous expenses you may incur as a student.
Can I Pay for College Without Loans?
Yes, you can pay for college without loans. Although federal student loans and private student loans are useful in meeting the immediate need for tuition, they come with interest. Regardless of how favorable the repayment options may be, you may end up paying back more over time than you borrowed. With a good plan, you can study in the program of your dreams without loans.
Top 5 Tips to Avoid College Loans
- Create a savings plan. As early as you can, create a college savings plan. To be as organized as possible, you can create separate accounts for each different college expense you may incur. The more money you can put away, the easier managing college costs will be.
- Do your research. Research the tuition and other costs of different colleges and universities offering your preferred program. You can create a cost comparison sheet on Microsoft Excel to have a better visual and help you prepare.
- Speak with advisors. Speaking with a career advisor or a member of the college admissions department will help you understand the breakdown of your expenses and give you clarity on the full scope of costs. They can also offer guidance on options of funding.
- Find ways to reduce costs. Consider taking online college courses for credit ahead of time to reduce your college course load, thus reducing your overall costs. You could also consider living off-campus and save $11,000 in college costs.
- Consider part-time attendance. You can attend college part-time. In doing so, you will be able to get a job and earn an income that you can put toward your college costs. Although your degree may take a little longer to complete, you may be able to avoid student debt.
How to Pay for College: 8 Ways to Pay for College
1. Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
Although you want to avoid taking out loans as much as possible, sometimes it is a necessary step. FAFSA is an excellent place to begin searching for financial aid as funds are disbursed according to need. By completing the free application online, you will find out for what federal student aid options you are eligible.
The application process is simple, and the earlier you apply, the more you can potentially receive. Do note that you will need to reapply for each academic year you require federal aid, as the disbursements are limited to one academic year.
Scholarships are a successful way of covering your tuition costs. There is a myriad of scholarships available to students in a wide variety of categories. By doing a bit of research, you can find scholarships that are specialized in your degree program.
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Some scholarships are for first-generation students, minority groups such as Asian, Hispanic, Black, and LGBTQ+, out-of-state students, students with disabilities, student-athletes, and merit scholarships that use your academic achievements to grant funding. You can apply for scholarships in as many categories as you may qualify for.
Another category of college financial aid is found in grants. You can apply for federal grants such as the Pell Grant which is available for first-time undergraduate students with demonstrated exceptional financial need.
The amount of aid you will receive is based on additional factors such as your cost of attendance and whether you are attending full-time or part-time. You can apply for a Pell Grant using the FAFSA form. You will have to reapply each year to retain this grant.
Work-study jobs are on-campus jobs for college students to help them manage their education expenses and earn some extra money while they’re at it. The money earned can be applied to any category of expenses such as tuition, books, supplies, or room and board.
Federal work-study programs are available through the US Department of Education. You can also speak to the financial aid office at your college to find out what work-study opportunities you can apply for.
5. 529 College Savings Plan
The 529 college savings plan is a tax-free opportunity for a typical family in America to grow their savings toward college expenses. Not all college costs are covered in this plan, but there are qualified expenses you can pay for using your 529 plan. If these savings are used outside of these qualified expenses, you’ll receive a 10 percent penalty fee in addition to taxation.
Expenses that qualify under the 529 college savings plan are college, vocation, and trade school tuition and fees, books and supplies, computers and computer software, Internet services, and special-needs equipment. The plan also covers off-campus housing and food and meal plans, as long as they’re equal to the cost of room and board on campus.
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6. Personal Savings
Personal savings are another way to pay for your college tuition. Your childhood piggy bank may not cut it this time around. Consider opening a college savings account that offers a good interest rate. You can save through physical or online bank accounts or credit unions.
Online banks tend to offer better rates than physical banks because they have fewer overhead costs, although saving with a bank or credit union is a safer way to manage your funds. It’s important to seek advice on the best way forward that will be both beneficial and manageable for you based on your saving goals.
7. Cheap Colleges
Attending a cheaper college such as a community college or a public college can help you save on your expenses. Cheap online colleges are another avenue offering higher education at lower tuition. Unless your program requires you to attend your classes in person, consider online study as a way to mitigate the cost of tuition.
Recently, many institutions of higher learning have moved their programs to online platforms. Online learning at all educational levels is increasingly becoming a norm, and according to the National Center for Education Statistics, over 37 percent of students take at least one class online. Apart from the lowered expenses, online education provides flexible schedules and cuts travel time for students.
8. Personal Income
Using personal income toward your college expenses is another way to pay for college without loans. Depending on your school of choice, you can speak to school counselors to help you come up with a plan that will help you balance a part-time job while studying.
Depending on your program and the job you have, you may have to study part-time to maintain a healthy balance and you may even take longer to finish your study program. However, you won’t have to grind as hard after school as you won’t have any loans to pay off.
Is Going to College Worth It?
Yes, going to college is worth it. Statistics have shown that people with a college degree have more employment opportunities, a higher likelihood of finding employment, and overall higher average earnings. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the median annual earnings of those with college degrees were about $20,000 higher than those without.
Although paying for college can seem like a daunting task, there are many ways to pay for college without ever considering private loan options. It is never too early to learn good financial habits, and it is never too late to start saving money for college. Whether you use loans from the federal government, family income, or grant programs, you’ll be able to finance your studies.
How to Pay for College FAQ
Are there other federal grants apart from Pell Grant?
Yes, there are other federal grants available to students apart from the Pell Grant. You can apply for the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH), as well as the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG). There is also the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant awarded to students whose parents or guardians served and died during military service in Iraq or Afghanistan post 9/11.
What if I do not have enough federal financial aid?
If you do not have enough federal financial aid, you can look for private scholarships from religious, fraternal, and community organizations. You could apply for a tuition payment plan where you can pay for tuition in monthly installments. If your family’s financial situation has recently changed, you can make financial aid appeal and request for your financial aid package to be reevaluated and revised.
Are online degrees recognized by employers?
In general, most employers do not take issue with whether you acquire your degree online or in person. What may be of more value is whether the online degree is from an accredited university, whether regionally or nationally. Verify this before you begin your application process. Research your desired field to see if the industry recognizes degrees earned online.
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What if I want to attend a private college?
If you want to attend a private college, you can still apply for federal financial aid and other student loans. The options discussed in this article are still applicable to get sufficient aid and avoid student debt. Private colleges have more financial resources because they have a bigger pool of sources of aid, so they tend to have a larger offering when it comes to financial assistance.
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