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How to Graduate Without Student Loans

Once upon a time, college graduates could say, “I paid for college by working and didn't need student loans.” Is this still a possibility?

Image source: / Photographer: Antonio Guillem

It can be done! Here are four tips to make it a reality. If you’d like help with any of these, or want to talk in more detail, contact our college funding department!

Here's a brief overview of how you could potentially graduate from college without student loans:

  1. Work throughout the year  →  Pay an extra $9,000 out of pocket
  2. Fund through a 529 College Savings Plan  →  Pay an extra $1,000 out of pocket
  3. Live at home  →  Reduce student housing costs by $10,000
  4. Pick an affordable university  →  Reduce overall costs drastically 

And here's a more detailed look at each:

Work Throughout the Year

If you can manage working part-time while in school and full-time during breaks, you could earn a hefty sum of money to use toward your education.

  • You could earn $3,672 during the school year (over the course of 36 weeks) by working 12 hours per week at $8.50 per hour.
  • You'd earn an extra $5,440 by working the same job full-time over the summer (12 weeks) and winter break (4 weeks).

That's over $9,000 in earnings over the course of the year! Add in a $2,000 academic grant or scholarship, and your tuition could be paid at many public Indiana colleges!

Be aware, though — balancing work and school can be difficult. If you find yourself missing classes or assignments because work is too much, it may be best to cut back on hours. Education is the priority!

Fund Through a 529 College Savings Plan

A 529 College Savings Plan is a special account that comes with a great tax benefit. Indiana taxpayers are eligible for a 20% tax credit on contributions up to $1,000 per year. This means Indiana will pay $1,000 toward your college bills just for utilizing a 529 for payments made to the school with cash and checks. There is some set-up required, but it's well worth it!

Learn more about 529 Plans at 3Rivers here.

Live at Home

At most Indiana colleges, housing (rent and meal plans) costs between $9,000 and $15,000 per year. These expenses don't include the “education” part of college — tuition, books, lab fees, and so on. Living at home while you're a student means avoiding these extra housing costs.

A single meal at some university dining halls can cost more than $20 — students are better off eating out, or, better yet, shopping for groceries and preparing their own food. Calculate these costs first!

You may fear drawbacks of living at home during your college years, but you can bridge the gap commuters often feel by participating in professors' research, joining student clubs and organizations, hanging out in public study areas and libraries, and making an effort to befriend fellow students on-campus.

Choose an Affordable University

Colleges publish their sticker prices openly. Interested students can look at the National Center for Education Statistics or the university's website. The problem with this number is that it doesn’t show what a student actually ends up paying when all costs are lumped together.

So, how does a student know how much school will cost in total? Two things need to happen:

  1. File the FAFSA. List up to 10 schools you're interested in attending.
  2. Apply to each school listed.

If accepted, colleges will send a Financial Aid Award Letter. This normally happens between January and April. This form lists expected costs and available financial aid — this bottom line number is closer to the actual cost. Compare these award letters in detail! They are key to understanding true college costs.

Avoiding student loans can be tough. Even if you can’t manage all four of these suggestions, pick one to start and go from there.

Want to discuss these tips — or your college funding options — more in depth? We're here to support you! Get in touch with us anytime.

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