Student loan debt – you hear about it everywhere. No matter how much you and your parents prepared and saved for college, the odds are good that you’ll need at least a few loans to get through school. In fact, about 70% of new graduates have outstanding loans to pay back.
Even so, the problem of paying for college contains a silver lining. Student loans aren’t the only way to pay for your degree. If you plan, save, and keep your expenses low, you can cut back on the amount of loans you need, which means you graduate on a faster track to financial success.
Let’s take a look at five options that help you pay your college bills without borrowing against your future.
Attend a State School with In-State Tuition
Attending a school in the state where you live gives you an easy advantage for saving money. Since the state government provides funding for the school, state residents typically get the lowest tuition rates. If you live in a state, then you usually qualify as a state resident there.
If your family maintains homes in more than one state, the big question is where you have residency. That’s the higher education term for “where you count as an in-state student.” Check the state residency requirements carefully when evaluating state schools. You will probably find that the rules say you’re a resident of one state, but not the other.
Go to an Out-of-State School with Reciprocity
What if the school of your dreams is in the state next door? Are you automatically doomed to paying out-of-state tuition? Maybe not, depending on where you live.
Over the years, many students wanted to attend universities in neighboring states. Luckily, a number of state legislatures, higher education commissions, and even groups of universities worked together to create reciprocity programs. These programs gives students who live out-of-state, but are still geographically close, a lower tuition rate when they attend state universities.
For example, IPFW offers in-state tuition rates to Ohio students who live in certain counties and discounted tuition to students living in states that are part of the Midwest Student Exchange Program.
If you aren’t sure what options are available to you, contact your school’s Admissions Office for more information.
Apply for Scholarships
There’s a world of scholarship money out there, just waiting for you to find it. Scholarships are literally free money for college. Depending on the scholarship, you might find a few strings attached—keeping up your grades, studying a certain subject—but scholarships still aren’t loans, which gives them a very positive impact on your financial future.
A great place to begin your scholarship search is USA Today’s list of the 10 best sites to search for scholarships. If you live in Indiana, take a look at our list of the five best scholarships for high achievers in Indiana.
Grants work much like scholarships. Some are need-based, meaning they go to students who demonstrate financial need or whose families would be hard-pressed to pay for school. Others are merit-based, so they depend on your grades and placement test scores.
Much of the money for these grants comes from the federal government. When your college puts together your financial aid package, you may automatically receive some of these, such as a Pell Grant. Your school’s Admissions Office or Financial Aid Office can help you learn more about these programs.
Work a Job
We hate to say this, but your parents could be right about taking a part-time job and saving some of your earnings. As tempting as it may sound to spend everything you make, saving some of that money can defray the non-tuition costs of college: books, dorm furnishings, movies, snacks, and so on.
Plus, a job adds valuable experience to your résumé, giving you a better shot for a part-time job at school or during the summer in the years to come.
Learn More in the Scholarship Guide
Getting the right help gives you an edge for finding scholarships. Click below to download our free Scholarship Quick Guide and start your search on the right path!