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  • Writer's pictureNathan Lippincott

A Debt Free College Experience: Tips on Making It Possible

Getting a college degree doesn't have to put you in life-long debt. Nathan Lippincott is a budeting expert and he has some advice for ways you can get through college without racking up more money than your degree is worth.

According to an article on Forbes, between the years 1967 and 2008, the number of people with degrees in the United States tripled, adding 40.6 million college graduates to the workforce. This resulted in a saturated market and now many graduates have taken employment in lower-skilled occupations which they could have done straight out of high school.

Before we tackle the topic of college, it is important to make sure that that is the direction in which you wish to go. In these days, college has become a “given;” everyone just assumes you will attend and earn a degree. Depending on what you want to do as a job, you may be better served starting in the field rather than in the classroom.

There are many occupations where learning on the job is more beneficial than college education. In fact, some of the better paying jobs in the tech industry only require self-taught skills. If you can teach yourself or learn from someone who will mentor you, you may not need to pursue a degree at all.

If you know you need a degree, just like everything discussed on, pursuing a college degree with little or no debt requires a plan.

Your First Two Years The initial part of every degree is basically the same – building block classes that apply universally to all degrees. There are two great ways to save money on these two years:

  • High School Credit: If you are able, opt to attend college classes as a high school student. These classes are free. Some students find they have the majority of their first two years completed at the time of high school graduation, thus greatly reducing the total expenditure for their college degree.

  • Community College: Many students think they should move away and live on campus to experience the “college life.” Living on campus is an astronomical price and not necessary for the first two years. Additionally, at a community college, you can obtain your basic classes for nearly half the price of a larger university.

Get Others to Pay You

  • Scholarships and grants: There are hundreds of scholarships and grants available and for many different things. Beyond educational and athletic scholarships, there is funding available for certain demographics (race, gender, religion, family situation, etc.) and even community service you’ve done. Complete every possible scholarship you can. Apply to everything! It will take time – consider it a side job for a time – but there is money out there and you can be one of the people who claim it!

  • Apply for FAFSA: Make sure to file for financial assistance from the government. The FAFSA form is for Free Application For Student Aid and is the standard for obtaining grants. (It also gives you information regarding loans, but for the purposes of this post, we are focusing on non-loan related funding for your education.)

  • Join the Military: If you are interested in serving, it can be an extremely valuable way to not only earn money and experience the world, but also provide free funding for a degree. The first step for this would be to speak to your local recruiter in whichever branch is of interest.

  • Employment reimbursement: Employers like Chrysler, JetBlue and Starbucks offer funding percentage for their employees to go to school. Many others do as well. It would be of benefit to try and find such a situation and capitalize on these benefits.

Work While You Learn

Finding employment as a student is not difficult and offers many options. You don’t have to work a standard job with hours from 8 am to 5 pm. There are quite a few employers who offer varied schedules that would fit around class schedules. Also check your college for student employment opportunities; there are many, such a tutoring.

This is a brief summary of different ways to approach college in a fiscally responsible way. Hopefully it has given some food for thought and opened avenues for more exploration in approaching college. Remember to think outside the box! Being resourceful is a characteristic that will be vitally important in all areas of life, even after college.


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