If you haven’t been saving for college, student loans are not the only answer.
According to American Student Assistance, 60% of college students borrow money annually to help cover tuition and cost of living. That’s approximately 12 million students per year that take out loans for their education – it’s no wonder that student debt has reached crisis mode.
So with student debt at $1 trillion and climbing, what are your other options for getting through college without debt?
Assistantships are usually only offered to graduate students, and many pay well enough to cover tuition plus some. They are usually doled out to graduate students who qualify for a teaching or research position. Students will teach a section of a freshman class or help a professor research for a specific project or class.
These positions are equivalent to working a part-time job (with the added benefit of excellent experience and significantly higher wages than working at the local fast food joint).
Assistantships are often competitive and difficult to procure, but they can be the most reliable way to pay your way through school without taking out loans.
Choose the Right School
Not all campuses are created equal.
You might have dreams of attending an Ivy League or private college, but if your savings aren’t going to cover your expenses and you can’t get scholarships, you might have to look elsewhere. State schools can give you the same quality education as a private university, and they’re usually much cheaper.
Another option is to look at non-traditional programs. Community colleges cost much less than four-year schools do. Many two-year schools have arrangements with four-year universities that will offer scholarships or subsidized tuition if you maintain a high GPA for your first two years.
Give vocational or online schools some thought as well. Four-year degrees are no longer the only legitimate way to have the college experience.
This one might seem obvious, but freshmen straight out of high school might not think they have it in them to work a part-time job and go to school.
But you can do it.
Working through school is not as difficult as it sounds; it just means making sacrifices. You might sleep a little less, go to fewer parties, and have to manage your homework a little more tightly, but pulling a few shifts a week at a job can pay your way through the worst of your college expenses. If you have the right attitude and time management skills, working won’t be as scary as it initially sounds.
If you didn’t create a budget in your high school economics class, create one now. College students are just one step closer to adulthood, and you’ll definitely need a budget when you enter the “real world”.
Most of budget creating is being money-wise. If you have a habit of spending instead of saving, start cutting back.
- Give yourself a certain monthly to spend on clothing, books, DVDs, or whatever your fatal shopping flaw is.
- Shop for online deals on sites like eDeal Info or Amazon.com instead of shopping at brand-name stores.
- Make meals from scratch instead of eating out.
Whatever you do, make sure that your monthly income is greater than your monthly expenditures. As long as you’re always bringing in more than you’re putting out, your budget is a success.
Write down your goals. If you have your educational goals in mind and on paper before you start college, you’ll be more willing to do whatever it takes to reach them. You might have to work, cut back on your shopping sprees, or even pass up an opportunity to attend an Ivy League and go to a state university instead, but if it means bypassing the student loans, isn’t it worth it?
Make the sacrifices now, and you will not have to worry about paying off student loans decades after you graduate.
Melanie Hargrave is a wife and homemaker whose family is her pride and joy. In addition to spending time with her husband and daughters, she loves being outdoors, playing sports, and sharing her experiences with others.