Many people say that if you want to go to college, then, might as well think about student loans at the same time.
Why though? That’s because college costs are so expensive that many families can’t afford to send their kids to school without having to borrow money somewhere.
In general or in many cases, kids want to go to school to get a great career that they like and they can use to have a better life. In order to do that and because college costs are extremely high, many of these kids (with or without parents’ assistance) will need to opt for loans.
Since they opt for loans, they eventually have to pay them eventually. This means that these kids will work not only to make a better life for them, but also to pay their student loans.
Sometimes, paying these loans comes first than making a better life.
It’s the reality.
According to the Federal Reserve data, student loans hit $1.5 trillion – more than credit card and auto debts. The College Board stated that those who finished with their Bachelor’s degree in 2016 with debt owed $28,400 on average.
Going to college is a big step that can pay off in the long run. But it can be a step back if that person doesn’t finish it.
How To Not Have Student Loans Or Just A Little Of It
There are ways to get to college for free or spend as little as possible or get a student loan for just a couple of thousand dollars (not five figures). Here they are:
1. Start saving early.
There’s no better time to pay for college for your kids than to start saving early and invest the money.
You can invest a couple of dollars and, gradually, increase it when you have pay raises, bonuses, etc.
You can invest using 529s, which also provide you with a tax benefit. This means that your money won’t be taxed in the future when your kid uses the funds for school-related expenses.
You can also start saving money on a high-interest bearing savings account.
I am a fan of CIT Bank because it has a Premier High Yield Savings account with annual percentage yield (APY) of 1.55%, which is 21 times higher than the average APY. Banks pay close to 0% in your savings.
Best of all, I like CIT because it has sky-high APY and it has no monthly servicing, minimum balance, no fee for online transfers, or incoming wire fees.
2. Work on a side hustle and make money out of it.
Even when you have little to no time to work, you can still make money on the side. Sometimes, you can make money without putting so much effort.
For one, I find surveys to be a good way to earn money.
In some surveys, you can make hundreds of dollars by answering simple, silly questions like “Do you eat bugs?”, “Do you drive a car every day?”, or something that will keep you interested.
Some of these surveys that will make you money again and again are:
- Ipsos I-Say (The first and the most trusted survey site we personally have used)
- Survey Club (Potentially make at least $50 per survey; As high as $115/survey)
- MyPoints (Desktop l Mobile) (Earn up to $50/survey; $5 Bonus after first five surveys)
- Vindale Research (Earn $2 bonus for signing up; I’ve earned more than $1,100 so far)
- MySurvey (Earn 2,000 points as a sign-up bonus; It has paid $32M+ since 2014)
But for some surveys, you won’t even have to do anything and you still get money or rewards from time to time. Some of these surveys are:
- VIP Voice Panel (Automatically enter for $1,000 after sign-up)
- Survey Savvy Connect (Earn $5 per device for each month SavvyConnect is installed, up to $180 per year!)
You can also drive for DashDoor to deliver meals that people order (…you know people just like to order food, but don’t like to pick it up). I heard people making $15 for a 10-minute trip. Imagine if you make an hour trip or several deliveries.
3. Enter the U.S. military.
Working for the military is one of the most noble things one can do not to mention the benefit of getting to college for free.
That’s possible through the Montgomery GI Bill. The GI bill is designed to help pay for college education.
Depending on how long you enlist and the job you choose, you can receive over $50K to help pay for your college expenses.
In general, all you need to do is pay $100/mo for the first year of your military service.
4. Do your best in high school.
High school is your gateway to a better college or a free college.
This means you have to do well in school. Ace your classes and even challenge yourself by getting Advanced Placement (AP) classes or honors classes.
Get the highest you can on the SAT and ACT to get a better chance of getting scholarships, grants, and also get to the school you want. Take the tests several times to improve your score.
Because extracurricular activities matter, be excellent at those and be well-rounded. Don’t just join every single club there is in your school. Choose a couple and do your best to excel in your chosen clubs.
When you do well in school and extracurricular activities, you might even get your college education for free with all the grants and scholarships you could get.
5. Apply for a scholarship.
There’s always money for scholarships especially for people with academic accomplishments, who are athletic, who involve in the community, among others.
For students, strive to do your best in school not only in academics, but also in sports, community outreach, and other extracurricular activities.
For parents, encourage your children to do their best and provide assistance when they need it.
While kids may not always get a full-ride scholarship, any amount (little or big) will help tremendously.
There’s is no limit in the number of scholarships you can get. The more scholarship you have, the more money you can use to pay for your school.
6. Attend a community college during the first 2 years.
While not totally eliminating college expenses, attending a community college in the first two years can reduce your need to borrow a ton of student loan.
That’s because tuition and fees in community colleges tend to be less than those from universities.
Since a lot of classes in the universities are general-type classes, getting those classes at a community college is a good option.
Some community colleges and public universities have an agreement that allows transferees from community colleges to attend the university as a junior. This means all or most of the classes will get credited.
7. Take college-level courses in high school.
Take and pass as many college-level courses (or AP subjects) as you can in high school. You can use these courses as credit towards some of your classes in college.
The best part is that these courses are mostly free except for things like books, study material, and exam fee to take the AP exams.
AP courses allow students to earn college credit for classes they take in high school through tests offered by the College Board, which is typically done at the end of the year.
8. Get your employer to pay for your education.
If you’ve been working for a while now and still saving money to go back to school, ask your Human Resources if it offers any education assistance to its employees.
In case you had taken out a student loan before you get the job you have right now, ask your employer if it offers a repayment assistance. Note that less than 5% of the companies now offer student loan repayment assistance.
My employer allows its employees to take Masters or even Doctorate degree in exchange for staying with the company two years after getting the degree.
If only I were interested in getting another degree, I would take this opportunity without blinking an eye.
9. Look for forgiveness programs.
Not every loan is eligible for forgiveness. Also, it takes several years before a loan is forgiven.
The federal loan program has a number of loan forgiveness programs, which basically forgives loans after a certain amount of time (provided requirements are met).
Forgiveness programs typically are available to people who work for non-profit companies.
Here are some programs that are available:
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness. If you have a public service job for 10 years and have made 120 on-time payments of your federal direct loan, the remaining balance could be forgiven. The loan must be on a qualified repayment plan.
- Teacher Loan Forgiveness. This is open to people who first took out loans after October 1998. To qualify, you need to teach full-time in an elementary or secondary school for at least 5 consecutive years. The school you work for must serve low-income students, must be listed in the Annual Directory of Designated Low-Income Schools for Teacher Cancellation Benefits, and qualify for Title I funding.
10. Choose another college.
While it sounds fancy and great to get an Ivy League degree, but the price tag that comes along with it can be scary especially when you take a loan to finance your education.
Just because Ivy League schools have some of the most successful people in the world doesn’t mean you can’t be successful when you choose a state university or community college.
Some state universities can easily compete with Ivy League schools. Also, there are a ton of companies constantly looking for talents that they widen their search to great state universities.
You can still get the education you deserve for a lot cheaper price just by going to a non-Ivy League school.
11. Fill out the FAFSA and submit it as soon as possible.
Even when you think your parents have more than enough that you can’t qualify for any grants, it’s never a bad idea to fill out the Federal Application for Financial Student Aid (FAFSA) and submit it as soon as possible.
You will receive your Student Aid Report (SAR) a couple of days after you submit your FAFSA. Your SAR will indicate if you qualify for a federal grant, work-study, and other federal aid programs.
It won’t tell you how much you are qualified for since the aid amount is determined by the school.
Some schools have more funding than the others. Some schools have limited funds and that’s why it’s always best if you get your FAFSA early. If you wait the last time to file your FAFSA, it’s possible that the work-study and other grants funding available at your chosen schools may already be exhausted.