There is something called the ‘student loan myth’. The student loan myth is the assumption that it is impossible to graduate from college without student loans. Those who believe this myth think that if they are going to go to college, they MUST get student loans. This type of default thinking is financially dangerous.
The Danger of Default Thinking
Default – a : a selection made usu. automatically or without active consideration due to lack of a viable alternative 〈remained the club’s president by default〉 Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary
So many of our financial decisions are made by default. We never think about or consider our options. We simply do what has always been done. If I walked up and down a public street and asked, “How is it that someone can afford to pay for college?” 9 out of 10 people would look at me with concern and say, “Student loans, of course”.
Yet, there is a way to graduate from college or an online school debt free. Otherwise your degree won’t be worth it if you have too much college loan debt. Remember, there are even some great jobs without a college degree.
The Key to Graduating from College Without Student Loan Debt
Creativity, resourcefulness, and commitment
If default thinking boxes us in, then creativity will free us to consider the possibility that we actually could graduate from college without debt. Commit to thinking about an option that no one else has considered. Be willing to do something that no one else would do. Make it your college goal to graduate – with reasonable grades, and no debt. Then you can devote your energy to achieving that goal.
You can and should take this two ways.
First, start to work as soon as you are old enough. I was 14 when I started tossing newspapers and 16 when I started my first part time job. Even though you might not make much at this young age, you should be able to stash away a lot of cash to help pay for your college education.
Second, start to work early in the morning. At school, some of the best paying jobs are early morning jobs because no one wants to work early in the morning. If you work at times when others are unwilling, you can expect to be properly rewarded for your effort.
Once you start to earn an income, you need to be on a strict saving diet. While you are living at home, (before going to college) you should be able to save at least 50-70% of your income.
Once you have $1,000, read a book on investing. There are many suggested investing books amongst some of the best personal finance books. From there, I would choose a basic investing strategy, depending on your time frame. Here’s a step by step guide for new investors.
Consider a co-op program
A co-op program allows you to work and go to school at the same time.
In a co-op program, you might spend a semester or two in the classroom and then you get some work experience in your field. After a semester of work, it is time to head back to the classroom. While you work, you also earn the money necessary to pay for a substantial part of your next semester. Sure, it takes longer to graduate, but you will graduate with more experience, more maturity, and less debt.
A community college is a great way to take care of basic course requirements. In addition to having lower tuition rates, you might be able to stay at home for an extra year. This, of course, will reduce your room and board cost.
Even if you are considering a degree that is not offered at your community college, you can still spend a year or two completing required courses before transferring.
Another affordable alternative is to consider online universities. Attend an accredited institution and you can earn many types of degrees or certification offered at many community colleges.
Don’t Buy A Car
I know, Americans don’t want to hear this piece of advice. For Americans, this is almost unpatriotic for me to write. However, I’m thankful for my Canadian background that taught me you don’t need a car when you’re 16. In general, most Canadians do not buy their first vehicle until after they graduate college. While more than half my US friends had a car in high school, not one of my Canadian friends had a car in high school.
Instead of buying a car, use the money for school. Once you graduate and save the money for a car, then you can buy a car – with cash. By the way, I’m sure one of your bazillion friends who owns a car would be glad to give you a ride every now and then.
Join the Military
If you are considering a career in the armed forces, there are a lot of programs that will pay for your college costs. Remember, you are making a huge commitment with this one, so don’t take it lightly. In exchange for your education, they will expect some type of military service.
Unless you are willing to work hard, you won’t be able to get out of college debt free. Working hard might apply to working on your grades to increase your opportunity for scholarships. Working hard might mean spending time working at a part-time job to pay for your schooling. Working hard might involve spending extra time on the sports field to keep your athletic scholarship. Better yet, work hard on all of these items.
If you have a clear sense of where you want to go to school, contact a school representative and ask them for a list of scholarship they have available. Pick out a few scholarships you think you would be well suited for and become better suited.
In addition, it is advisable to spend a substantial amount of time the semester before you go to college submitting scholarship applications. For most teens, it will be hard for them to make more working than they could save by being awarded just a few scholarships.
Keep School Costs Low
Reduce textbook costs by buying online. Reduce food costs by making your own. Reduce housing costs by shopping around.
Unfortunately, people see their school loans as a blank check. As a result, those with school loans have no regard for how much they are spending on school. Since you plan to pay cash, you need to give due diligence to shop around and find some of the best prices.
What did you do to help reduce the cost of a college education? Do you think it is really possible to graduate college without student loan debt?