The number of students going to college is constantly increasing because most careers require some type of degree in today's world. With that said, college is overwhelmingly expensive, and many students end up with tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans. As a student paying my way through college, and a penny-pincher who cringes at the thought of student loan debts, I have put together a list of ways to save money on college and avoid student loans.
Start at a Community College
For most degrees you will need your general education classes before you can even start working toward your major. You can save tens of thousands of dollars by simply sticking to your community college for these courses. While many high school graduates want to hurry up and go off to college to live on their own and experience college life, it is far more financially smart to start at a community college. A semester at a big name college can cost upwards of 20,000 dollars, whereas a semester at a community college is right around 2,500. This is a huge cost difference and will go a long way towards saving you money on your education.
Many community colleges also offer degree programs in areas such as nursing, dental assistant, business and many other areas. If your community college offers a degree in your major, take it. You can always go to a 4 year school for your bachelors, but earning your associates at a community college will save you a vast amount of money.
Live at Home
Many college students are anxious to get out on their own, however, many end up moving back home. If at all possible live at home while you are in school. Your parents are great, there's food in the fridge, internet, cable tv, lights, hot water, and the best part is, you're not paying for it. Many college students who move out right after high school will tell you how much they regret it and wish they would have stayed at home longer. The cost of living on your own is not cheap, and neither are college dorms. Living at home will allow you to spend more of your hard-earned money on school and text books without worrying about when the electric bill or rent is due.
Some parents ask their children to pay rent or help out with some of the bills once they graduate high school. I am blessed with a family who allows me to live at home while I'm in school without paying bills or rent. I still pay for things like car insurance and my cellphone, however, I am saving tons of money by not paying to live on my own and I have been able to go to school without taking out any student loans!
Talk to your parents and see if they're okay with you living at home while you attend school, even if they ask for rent or for you to pay a bill or two, do the math, it is still probably far cheaper than living on your own! Saving money is all about taking advantage of your resources and allowing those people you are close with to help you.
Rent Your Textbooks
Not only are college classes expensive, but textbooks can be outrageously priced. Check with your college to see if they offer textbook rentals, and take advantage of this opportunity. Chances are, you are never going to look at that book again once you are done with the class, so why spend hundreds of dollars on your textbook? If your college doesn't offer textbook rentals, there are some websites that you can rent from such as Chegg.com.
If you do feel you will use the textbook again as a reference, or if you have to buy workbooks that cannot be rented, try to buy used. Many colleges offer new or used books and the used are generally about half the cost. If your school does not offer used textbooks, do some online shopping and chances are you can find some far cheaper.
Go Part Time
While it is great to go to school full-time and get your degree sooner, sometimes it is more cost-effective to only take as many classes as you can afford. I have used this theory throughout my educational career and I do not have any student loans or debts. If you can afford to take a full course load, go for it, however, don't get discouraged if you have to only take one or two classes for a few semesters. Many people feel that if they hurry up and get their degree they will be able to get a job making more money, however, this is not always true. Sure you may be making double or triple what you were before, but interest rates on student loans are high, and depending on how much you took out in loans, you may be paying them off for the next 30 years.
Apply for Financial Aid and Scholarships
Many students put off applying for FAFSA because they feel that they will not qualify. You should always apply. I did not think that I would receive financial aid because I live at home and I felt between my income and my parents income I would not qualify. I did qualify for 2 different semesters, I am not sure why those and not the others, but I still apply each year because every little bit helps. Unlike most people, I did not receive thousands of dollars from financial aid, but half of my tuition was paid for so for those semesters I only paid for the other half and then my textbooks. This was a huge help, and I am very grateful for it. Always apply, the funds are there, and it doesn't hurt to apply!
There are also many scholarships students can apply for. Each year numerous scholarships go unfulfilled simply because no one applies. Check out what scholarships your school offers, and also check out scholarships online. By applying for as many as you can, you may end up being awarded one or two and saving on your tuition! I have received scholarships from various foundations, and even the Red Cross for hosting a blood drive! No scholarship is too small to apply for, $100 dollar scholarships is that much less you have to take out of your pocket!
I hope these tips will help other students who are paying their own way through college. These steps have saved me money and allowed me to attend college without taking out a loan. For so many, student loans seem like the only option, however, there are many ways to cut your college costs and pay for your school without being worried about paying it off for the next 30 years!