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How to Avoid the Obama Dilemma and Pay for College Without Student Loans

how to pay for college without loans

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While addressing the fraternity of State University of New York Buffalo in August 2013, former President Barack Obama admitted that he had challenges paying off his student loan. Despite having distinguished degrees from Columbia, and Harvard Universities, he admitted that he was only able to pay off his student loan when he was in his 40’s. A time he, and Michelle, should have been saving for Malia and Sasha.

There are several other famous people who have had challenges paying off their student loans including Miles Teller the action actor and Senator Ted Cruz.

College education in the U.S. isn’t cheap. According to the College Board, a moderate four-year out-of-state program in a public institution demands a whopping $ 40,940 annually. In fact, the cost of college education has grown nearly three-fold in the last three decades while the average American family income has only grown 16 percent.

Student loans are like the Hotel California, you can check in anytime, a simple solution on how to pay for college tuition, but a not so easy way out to of debt.

Today, Americans are graduating with the highest debt rates ever recorded in history. The national student loan debt exceeds $ 1.5 trillion. That’s about $ 500 billion higher than the national credit card debt. At graduation, each student from the class of 2017 picked a debt tab of $ 37,172. A 6 percent rise from the 2016 figure, and enough to last you 10 years of repayment on a middle-income job!

But you don’t have to join the bandwagon. There are creative, sometimes a bit uncomfortable, but sure ways to pay for college without student loans.

Here are a couple of proven suggestions on how to pay for college without loans.

Get Someone Else to Pay for Your College

One of the unique ways to pay for college without loans is to look for someone who‘s willing to pay it for you. This is free money available for you, just because you take the time to look for it. If you are diligent in doing some research, don’t mind filling out some surveys and can write a couple of essays, then you could hear the sweet Ka-ching! in no time.

Here are ways to get someone else to pay for you.


Scholarships are often given on the basis of merit. You can start by asking about available local scholarship programs. Talk with your current school’s guidance counselor; visit the local chamber of commerce or community groups and ask about available scholarship opportunities and how to apply. They may seem like small offerings, but you know what they say about little by little. It’ll eventually fill the measure.

Also, you could throw your net into deeper, and definitely richer, waters by looking for national scholarships. You’ll be surprised at how much you can reel-in in terms of scholarships. Scholarship programs often use merit to award candidates. It could be your excellent grades, athletic skills, abilities the performing arts, or a variety of cultural and experience reasons. The list is almost endless.

Probably you’ll get confused by the number of hits when you search the word “national college scholarships.” So here’s a little help. The College Board Scholarship Handbook is an excellent place to start. Also, you can get insight into different types of scholarship from My Education Guide and the National Assistance Network.

Here’s a tip on scholarship. If you’re planning to major on any of the STEM subjects, you have a higher chance of landing a scholarship.


Another great way of receiving free money for your college tuition is Grants. Most grant programs are based on financial need.

In the academic year 2016-2017, the Federal Government gave an average of $ 5,000 in grant aid to students in public institutions and $ 16,700 to those in private colleges! That’s more than a year at a community college and a great way to pay for college without loans.

Alternatively, you can apply for a Pell grant, for state aid or write a formal appeal letter to your college and ask for the money. But you have to complete the FASFA in order to qualify and do a good job at explaining your financial situation. Justify why you are the best fit for the pick, both in terms of need and merit and highlight any changes that may have occurred in the current year because most grant programs and FASFA are based on the previous year’s income.

Take Matters into Your Own Hands and Reduce the Cost of College

Cutting the overall costs gets you closer to pay for college without loans. Even if you have to get a small loan to supplement what you already have, borrowing a smaller amount has a significant impact on how long the loan lingers. According to the College Board, much of the $ 1.5 trillion in student loans is owed by high-value borrowers. Students who borrow smaller amounts tend to clear their debts faster.

Here are some of the ways you can reduce the cost of college.

Squeeze the College Tuition, Fees and Accommodation to a Manageable Budget.

An excellent way to cut down what to pay for college is by attending a community college for the first two years and then transferring to a state university. Whereas four years at an out of state public college program would cost you about $ 25,620 in tuition fees each year,  a year at a community college costs about $ 3,570 in tuition.

What’s the catch?

No one ever cares to know where you started college. So you can take this two plus two strategy and attend a community school first, then transfer to a state school. You’ll end up cutting college costs immensely.

You can also cut the tuition costs by taking the Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) classes for college credit if you are in high school. If you are already in college, take the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) assessments and receive college credit without having to take the class.

Cut the Accommodation and Textbook Costs

Cutting down on room and board can significantly reduce what you have to pay for college. It’s a discretionary cost which you can avoid, or considerably cut down.

On average, students in a community school would spend about $ 8,400, those in state schools (both in-state and out of state programs) spend $ 10,800 and those in private colleges spend about $ 12,210 on room and board.

You can cut this by simply living at home with your parents. It may not be the coolest thing to do, so just do it for the first couple of years. Also, you can stay off campus at a low-cost apartment and commute. The same applies to textbooks which take up about $ 2,400 every year. You can buy second-hand textbooks or get into community arrangements.

Make Money for Your College Fee

If you are still pondering on how to pay for college without loans, think no further than making the money you need. While many students abhor the thought of working while studying, it’s not smart to ignore the double benefits of gaining some experience and a degree simultaneously.

Yes, it may be slightly uncomfortable but surely worth every buck. Here are some of the options which you can go for.

Look for Work-study Opportunities

Work-study opportunities are part-time jobs on campus or nearby that are available for eligible students. Students usually qualify mainly based on their financial need and the availability of the jobs depend on the funding available at the college. The jobs pay students directly on a monthly basis but there’s usually a limit based on your work-study award for the year.

The first step to such a job is submitting the FASFA. But if you don’t like the idea of capping how much you could earn, it’s worth it to look for other part-time jobs

Part-time Jobs

We often call them “odd-jobs” but there’s nothing odd about the extra bucks. “Odd jobs” like babysitting, dog walking, pet-sitting, or driving with Lyft, are excellent ways to pay for college without loans. Here are 13 other side jobs that can make you $ 500 this month.

Keep in mind, when looking for part time jobs, look for jobs that are flexible, do not require working late hours, have a positive environment and bring in decent pay. Putting in 20 hours a week at a $7.25/hour job (minimum wage) will bring in $ 580 every month.

Be Enterprising

If your study program permits and you are daring enough, you can be an entrepreneur and make money for your college tuition.

You can tutor in a subject you excel in or prepare and sell decent and detailed notes (if the school permits). You can also freelance in an area you are proficient in and make the extra bucks. Read these articles to learn how freelancing can be an excellent way to pay for your college tuition.

Websites like Fiverr are excellent for sourcing freelance gigs from writing to music. Other sites like iWriter are excellent for writing gigs and Transcribe anywhere gives you a host of transcription gigs.

Making money on the side is an excellent way to pay for your college without student loans. But it’s only one side of the coin. You have to make every buck count by not spending all the cash you work so hard for but saving it. The Trim Financial Manager is an excellent App that can help you track your monthly expenses, cut down on some costs and give you insights on how to negotiate some bills.

Here’s the bottom line, you can opt to go for a student loan and remain shackled for years with the debt. Like former President Obama, you may have to postpone other milestones such as getting married, buying a home or saving for your kids’ education. Or, use these options on how to pay for college without loans and walk with your head high throughout the program.


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