Paying for College Without Taking Out Student Loans

Figuring out how to pay for college can seem like a complicated puzzle. But can you pay for college without taking out any student loans?

Flickr user Joe Goldberg

Paying for college without taking out student loans may seem like an unattainable dream. It’s not just the huge tuition fees that you need to take into considerable. There’s also the cost of books, room and board, and other incidentals. Is it even possible for anyone to bear all of these expenses without taking a loan?

The good news is there are ways you can actually achieve this goal. It will take considerable planning and you will have to work hard. But, if you are prepared to do this, you can graduate without debt.

Here are a few things you can do to pay for college without taking out student loans.

Explore Your Community College Options First

When looking for a way to pay for college without taking out student loans, consider community colleges. Attending community college can cost you half as much as enrolling in a public college and one-tenth the fees of enrolling in a private college. That’s a huge chunk of savings right there.

If you are looking to graduate from a big-name college, you can still save by starting out at a 2-year community college and then transferring the college that you plan to graduate from. This way you end up paying for only about two years instead of four. Community college will still get you a solid education that is on par with any college. When you consider the money you will save it is totally worth it.

Attending 2 years community college also gives you more time to build your finances by working part time or working towards a scholarship. When it’s time to transfer you should have a tidy sum saved up to pay towards your tuition fees without taking out student loans.

Compare Tuition Fees & Choose the Right College

There is a huge difference in tuition fees from one college to another. Do you really need to attend the most expensive school? It’s a myth that colleges with lower tuition fees offer a lower quality of education. If you check any college rankings, you will see that “cheaper” colleges are right up there with their more expensive counterparts. There are several factors that go into determining how good a college is and fees are not one of them.

This is where College Raptor can be a massive help! With our free match tool, you can discover your personalized college cost estimates for nearly every four year college in America. You can compare your own net price estimates to various schools. You can even see information like your acceptance odds and overall fit.

A little known fact that is choosing certain area of study may qualify students for in-instate tuition at an out-of-state school. This is something worth looking into.

Do Exhaustive Research On Available Scholarships

There are some amazing scholarship opportunities out there. All you need to do is spend time researching the various scholarships available and look for those that you qualify for. Any money you receive by way of scholarships is free money, which means you won’t need to pay it back.

Different colleges offer scholarships based on a variety of qualifications, from academics, accomplishments and athletics to area of study, desired major, cultural and community experiences and even background or location. So take time to look.

You’ll find a lot of options available out there, some of them quite unexpected. For example, did you know that basketball scholarships aren’t offered exclusively for players? Some colleges offer basketball scholarships to non-playing but essential members of the team like equipment managers.

Some colleges do not publish specific scholarships so if you cannot find any scholarship information for the institution you want to attend, contact their financial aid office and make inquiries. Don’t give up without pursuing all your options.

Explore Federal Student Aid Opportunities

Did you know the biggest provider of student financial aid is actually the government? Yep, through scholarships, grants, and federal loans, the government supports students by helping pay for their higher education. So make certain that you file your FAFSA and CSS (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and discover what aid opportunities are available to you. Even if you don’t think you’ll get anything, file the FAFSA anyway for two reasons. One, you’ll likely get something in terms of aid. Two, many private scholarships and aid sources actually require you to have filed the FAFSA anyway.

Consider Student Employment To Earn A Side Income

Work Study while you are in college is a great way to earn and finance your college tuition. The Federal Work Study program offers full-time and part-time university students various job opportunities as a way to help fund their education.

While taking up any job in college is worth it, if you find one that fits with your particular area of study, the extra experience will hold you in good stead when you graduate and are looking for work. Employers always give preference to applicants who have work experience.

If you are interested in student employment opportunities, make sure you check the appropriate box when you complete the FAFSA form.

Check Out Employer Reimbursement Programs to Avoid Taking Out Student Loans

Today, several companies are encouraging students to complete their education by offering employer reimbursement programs. Chrysler, Chipotle, and Starbucks are just three of many companies that offer this opportunity.

To avail of this opportunity, you take up a job with a company that offers an employer reimbursement program. Different companies offer different incentives. Typically, the company pays a certain amount of your tuition for the freshman and sophomore years. To qualify, you will be required to work a certain amount of hours a week. 20 hours a week is the minimum requirement by most companies. In addition, you must maintain a certain average – usually a B average.

When you get to junior year, and if you’ve met the working and academic requirements, the company will offer to reimburse part of your junior and senior year tuition fees. Some companies reimburse 100% of the tuition fees.

Even when pursuing all of these opportunities, some students still need to take out student loans. But by planning ahead and working hard, you can reduce the amount you need to take out, and plan ahead for repaying student loans quickly after graduation.



Lender Rates (APR) Eligibility
Earnest company logo.
Variable APR: 1.99%* +
Fixed APR: 2.98%* +
Undergraduate and Graduate
Lendkey company logo.
Variable APR: 1.90%* +
Fixed APR: 2.95%* +
Undergraduate, Graduate, Parent PLUS
Credible company logo.
Variable APR: 2.13%* +
Fixed APR: 2.58%* +
Undergraduate and Graduate
Laurel road company logo.
Variable APR: 1.89%* +
Fixed APR: 2.50%* +
Undergraduate and Graduate
Commonbond company logo.
Variable APR: 2.46%* +
Fixed APR: 2.59%* +
Undergraduate, Graduate, Parent PLUS
Fixed APR: 2.74%* +
Undergraduate, Graduate, Parent PLUS
VISIT ISL Education Lending
Variable APR: 1.95%* +
Fixed APR: 2.55%* +
Undergraduate, Graduate, Parent PLUS
VISIT Nelnet
Variable APR: 2.94%* +
Fixed APR: 2.99%* +
Undergraduate and Graduate
VISIT College Ave
Variable APR: 2.39%* +
Fixed APR: 2.58%* +
Undergraduate and Graduate, Parent PLUS

*APR includes a 0.25% interest rate reduction for enrollment in automatic payments.

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