Getting a college education is increasingly seen as vital to a person’s long-term career prospects. Research shows that college graduates earn significantly more than high-school graduates, with U.S. Census estimates putting the difference at $19,550 per year. Even when factoring the costs of college education and the accumulated student debt, a college education provides a significant edge over high-school graduates.
Despite these benefits, it is also true that college education is increasingly expensive and that assuming student debt can take a great financial and psychological toll. Below, we discuss the strategies that you can employ to graduate from college debt-free.
It All Starts In High School
1. Take AP or IB Level Courses
Advanced placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses give high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to earn college credits. They are more rigorous than traditional high school classes, but the benefit is that by giving you credits on college classes, they reduce the amount of time you need to spend in college, saving you thousands of dollars.
2. Take College Level Courses While In High School
Some colleges, typically community colleges, allow you to take courses without a high school diploma. There are also online college courses on Udacity or Udemy that you can take. So if you find you do not qualify for AP or IB classes, this is another option.
What College or University Should You Attend?
3. Live In a City That Offers Free College Tuition
There are programs in the United States such as the Kalamazoo Promise that guarantees tuition fee payment for a bachelor’s degree (or 130 credit hours) in 15 universities and colleges in Michigan, as well as 29 community colleges to students living in Kalamazoo County who will have spent their entire high school education in Kalamazoo. High school graduates have up to 10 years to begin their college education and claim the Kalamazoo Promise. Many cities across the United States have similar programs.
4. Attend Free or Affordable Colleges
You have two options here. If you speak a foreign language or are willing to learn one in preparation for university education, many countries overseas provide free university education, or education at very low cost. The other option is to attend a local college that offers free education, or to apply at affordable colleges.
5. Start With a Community College
Community college may be a good first option for the first two years of your university education. They are much cheaper than universities and offer more personalized education and offer you breathing space to prepare financially for university.
6. Apply to a Prestigious University
Prestigious universities are extremely expensive but they also have big endowments which gives them the resources to offer generous scholarships that less prestigious universities cannot offer.
7. Apply for the Honors Program
Assuming you have a good academic record and high SAT or ACT scores, you should think about honours. Honours programs often pay full tuition so they are a great option for strong students.
Full academic or athletic scholarships are a golden ticket, but they are highly competitive. Another option is to look for less competitive, though also less generous college scholarship and grant opportunities. You can create a portfolio of these to bring down your financial burden. There are many resources you can look at, such as CollegeData’s Scholarship Finder, or “The Ultimate Scholarship Book“ or FinAid.
There are many more ways to reduce your financial burden. What is important to know is that the financial cost of college education need not be a closed door preventing you from attending college