Young Graduate

How to Lower College Costs and Avoid Student Loan Debt

Today’s post comes to us from Steven Millstein. Steven is a professional personal finance writer. He is a contributor for several professional finance sites. His work has been mentioned in and linked to from, USA Today, The Huffington Post, Benzinga, Investopedia and many other publications. He also has his own personal finance blog, Credit Zeal, where you can follow him. 


How to Lower College Costs and Avoid Student Loan Debt

The increasing cost of college tuition has many wondering if it is really possible to pay for a degree without the help of student loans. With outstanding student loan debt now surpassing credit card debt in the U.S., it has become clear that most of us accept student debt as a normal cost of a higher education. But does it really have to be that way? Is there a way to attend college without borrowing?


Planning Ahead for College Costs

I had student loan debt. I’m not sure that I could have avoided it with my graduate education, but I can see how I could have avoided student loan debt with my undergraduate degree. Indeed, I really shouldn’t have had a problem paying for college. I had a full-tuition scholarship, and a part-time job in the university cafeteria. Bonus: I got free high quality(??) food regularly. My parents paid for my housing. During my junior and senior years I was a Resident Advisor, with free housing and a stipend. With some better planning and better financial habits, I could easily have made it through four years of undergrad without borrowing.

Planning has a lot to do with whether or not you end up needing student loans for college. In anticipation of rising college costs, we’ve been contributing to college savings for my son since he was six years old. We’ve also encouraged him to work hard in school, and have talked about the benefits of getting scholarships. There are numerous scholarships that can be applied for, and it is possible to earn several smaller scholarships to pay for school if you can’t land one big one. Starting as early as possible to save up for college, while also exploring other means to fund college, can help to dramatically reduce the need for student loans.

College Desk

Options that can help you avoid student loan debt:

  • Community College– My wife attended community college for the first two years of her schooling. It was affordable without loans, and she was able to transfer to a four-year school easily. Plus, her grades, which were lackluster in high school, improved at community college — good enough for a scholarship when she transferred to the four-year school.
  • Living at Home– While attending community college, living at home reduces living expenses and tuition; a great way to get started with an education and a degree without borrowing.
  • Part-time Job– You can also help pay for college by earning extra money. On-campus jobs or flexible jobs near campus can be help pay for books, living expenses, and other costs. While a part-time job might not pay your tuition fully, it can go a long way to sustaining you financially through your higher education years.
  • Other Options– If you have a scholarship, or money saved up in an ESA or 529 account, you can use that for tuition, and work part-time to cover the incidentals that come with attending university.


Bottom Line

If you want to avoid taking out student loans, the time to start planning is as early as possible. Consider your options and look for ways to get ready ahead of time. Chances are there won’t be one single solution sufficient to pay for a college education; you will need a combination of strategies.

Another great resource to check out is They offer a wide range of student loan debt consolidation plans, each tailored to help borrowers manager their debt under better terms.


Please Share Your Thoughts!