College Without Debt: You Can Pay for a College Education and Still Have a Future

I often counsel college-bound high school students and their parents about the dangers of being stuck with an exorbitant amount of student loan debt to pay back after graduation from college. Graduates cannot find entry-level professional employment and are unable to pay their loans. Many are now dealing with high-powered collection agencies.

Creditors send reports of their default to all major credit bureaus and they find it difficult to secure loans for automobiles, credit cards and home purchases. Lenders garnish their salaries by court order and they cannot make major asset purchases or sales. They attempt to declare bankruptcy, but the system does not allow them to discharge their student loan debt. It will be with them for life.

I have included here a list of the most important approaches to take that will keep you away from accumulating debt while you get your degree. But this list is only for those students who understand the vagaries of student loans and are willing to dedicate themselves to their financial future and forsake the promise of the “college experience.” It’s a fairly simple list that you may not like. But it is what you must do.

The Most Effective Alternatives to Student Loans

Find the Affordable Degree. We live in a society that says you should have a college degree. Therefore, earn the degree from an accredited institution that will meet your need of lower cost. If you have decided to attend college full-time then you must earn the degree over the shortest time span possible.

Attend a Community College. This serves a two-fold purpose: First, it will save you money as community colleges often charge the lowest tuition and fees. Second, it allows you the flexibility and time to decide what your four-year school and major/focus will be. Also many regional four-year schools now have agreements to take students from community colleges with no extra course requirements. But make sure that you have an up-front agreement before you transfer to the four-year school that indicates which additional courses, if any, you may need to take.

Attend a State School. Attending a state university is often the least expensive alternative to student loans and mountains of debt. The tuition is low for in-state students and if you stay at home you might avoid room and board expenses.

Attend the college part-time. You do not have to attend college full-time. My suggestion to many students has been to work in a non-college qualified full-time job in their field of interest. Make connections with potential employers in the field (network), save as much as possible and attend college part-time. Many employers will pay for courses related to your field.

Enroll in a work-study program. Remember, you need a degree without the burden of student loans. Working in the library or cafeteria before you graduate is a better alternative than dealing with debt collection agencies after you graduate.

Join the ROTC and Military Service. Depending on the college, some ROTC programs offer scholarships covering the complete costs for tuition, fees, and textbooks for four years of college.

Take AP qualified courses. Many high schools in the United States offer Advanced Placement courses to students. The colleges who recognize these courses will grant credit to students who score high enough on qualifying exams.

My point in all this is to say that you must dedicate yourself to your own financial security. You must graduate totally free of student debt so that you can prove yourself in your field and make a life for yourself and your family. Say NO to student loans!

This article was created by J Roberts also known as Professor Roberts. He is a noted counselor to parents and students alike and is the author of the book “Colleges Behind Closed Doors: What You Need to Know (Long) Before You Go.” He is an authority on the inner-workings of colleges, college preparation, selection, and finances. Visit him at

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