How to pay for college

How to Pay for College Without Taking Out Loans

Are your kids getting ready to apply for colleges? Are you starting to worry about how you’ll afford it? Or wondering how you can pay for college without taking out loans?

Here’s a list of things your child can do to pay for college without taking out loans:
  1. Start by getting good grades in high school. Their GPA and ACT/SAT scores will award them merit scholarships without even having to apply for them. Many schools have charts and scholarship calculators where prospective students can plug in their scores to reveal their automatic breaks.
  2. Take AP courses or college credit courses. Many high schools offer college credit courses through a local community college. In addition, students taking AP classes in high school can test at the end of the school year and those who receive a C or higher on the test will get college credit for the class. The AP test is about $100 – much less than the cost of a college class and corresponding books.
  3. Apply for national scholarships. First they should make a list of all their associations, as well as those of your immediate family. There are scholarships available for left-handers, children and grandchildren of war veterans and family of members of groups, such as the Lions Club. Check out websites like or books like “The Ultimate Scholarship Book” by Gen and Kelly Tanabe for an unbelievable list of scholarships available.
  4. Apply for local scholarships. Have your child check out their high school’s website for information on local businesses, churches and sports organizations offering scholarships. While none of them offer full rides, the generous $500 to $1000 scholarships add up quickly and cover things like books, housing and travel expenses that merit scholarships don’t cover.
  5. Apply for sports scholarships – while realizing that only 2% of high school athletes are offered some form of athletic scholarships and the opportunity to compete in college. Some athletes seek less popular sports such as bowling or rugby hoping for a smaller pool of scholarship contenders. Be aware that DIII schools – which are often small, private colleges – do not offer athletic scholarships at all.
  6. Get a summer and on campus job. If a student works 20 hours at $7.25 per hour, they will gross $145 per week. Even after minimal taxes, that is more than $5000 per year.
  7. Consider joining a public service program like AmeriCorps, Peace Corp, National Health Service Corps or ROTC. They often offer college scholarships, reduced loans or deferred loans in exchange for service.
  8. Consider community colleges, which offer a lot of great college savings. Classes are available during the day or evening so you can work full or part time. Because the school is local, students can live at home to save on room and board. The cost of classes, many of which transfer to a four-year school, are much less per credit hour. Some community colleges even offer 3+1 programs allowing students to pay community college prices for three years and then spend one year at a local four-year institution or taking that institution’s classes but onsite at the community college still.
  9. Investigate employer reimbursement programs. If you are going to work while in college, consider working for a company that offers a tuition reimbursement program. UPS, Starbucks and Verizon are just a few of the national companies that offer tuition reimbursement to full and part time employees (the average assistance is $5,250 per year), and some local companies do as well.
  10. Remember that college employees and their children get discounts on their college education. Please note, this is not available for a part-time student position in the bookstore. This is for regular staff such as professors, the bursar office team and maintenance crew members. Full time employees and their children are usually offered a discount for tuition only.
  11. Try to graduate sooner by taking summer and online classes at your community college. You can also take an extra class or two each semester to boost your credits and complete your requirements early. By graduating early, you will save on room and board – an average of $10,000.
  12. Look for book options. Books are crazy expensive. Don’t fall for the convenience of the college bookstore. Get your class syllabus and determine the best option for buying books. Look online at Amazon, consider used books, share with a roommate or rent the books for half the price. Try looking at local used bookstores and eBay to get the most bang for your buck.
Six Surprising College Facts
  1. The average cost of a four-year, in-state public college education is $98,440 according to Out-of-state college fees are often higher and don’t include the cost of travel expenses. Private schools average $197,280 for a four-year education.
  2. The National Center for Education Statistics reports the average time to complete a bachelor’s degree is 48 months or six years. Sadly, that is an additional cost that families often don’t budget for, especially those with more than one child.
  3. According to the National Student Clearinghouse, only 58 percent of students who enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities in the fall of 2019 completed school within six years. That number is declining.
  4. According to Student Loan Hero, the average Class of 2018 graduate has $37,172 in student loan debt, up six percent from the previous year.
  5. The average monthly student loan payment is $200-$299.
  6. The National Association of Colleges and Employers projected the Class of 2019 to have an average salary of $55,280. Those numbers are compiled from 10 broad range degree areas such as Business, Education, Communication, Engineering and Healthcare.