How To Pay For College With No Student Loans – Forbes | Vette Leader

If you’re currently enrolled in college, planning to start college this fall, or approaching college age, you have every right to be concerned about the future of student loans. After all, college costs continue to rise each year, and all of the proposed “fixes” seem to address debt relief rather than addressing the root cause of the problem.

The government is busy finding further solutions to the university debt crisis. In fact, the Biden administration appears to be considering a forgiveness plan that would pay off up to $10,000 in state student loan debt per borrower. The thing is, those who have the most trouble paying student loans tend to start out with a lot more than $10,000 in student debt. Additionally, forgiveness is expected to apply only to government student loans (rather than private student loans), and income caps will limit who can qualify.

Given all of this, wouldn’t it be great to be able to pay for college without taking on student loan debt? While graduating with a debt-free degree may not be easy, several experts I spoke to said it’s still possible to pay for college without taking out loans. The tips below could at least help you graduate while keeping student loan debt to a minimum.

Visit the community college first

CPA Howard Dvorkin of Debt.com says he always pushes young people to go to college, but not too far. In fact, he suggests going to community college first, which is cheaper.

Tuition and fees at a two-year public community college for the 2021-22 academic year were just $3,800, up just $50 from the previous year, according to CollegeBoard figures. In contrast, one year of tuition and fees in a public, four-year state school costs students $10,740 in the same school year.

If you go to community college and live at home for two years, you save money and don’t give up anything, he says, adding that you can always transfer to a four-year school and graduate there.

Dvorkin also says that students with the best grades in community college may be able to get into a school that they wouldn’t have had they applied to high school.

“Hopefully you’ve not only saved money after the switch, but you’ve also matured a bit,” says Dworkin. “Fresh students are notorious for money burning a hole in their pocket.”

Start planning early

dr Preston D. Cherry, who works as a financial advisor for Concurrent Financial Planning, says parents and students can and should Start college planning before and during high school.

Parents can start long-term savings and investment plans with college savings vehicles like 529 plans, he says. The money accumulated in these accounts can accumulate over time and be used to pay for school and other eligible higher education expenses.

Meanwhile, some states are offering tax breaks for those who contribute to a 529 college savings plan. For example, the state of Indiana offers a 20% tax credit on the first $5,000 paid into a plan each year, which has an annual value of up to $1,000.

dr Cherry says families can also plan better early on by figuring out how some high school courses could serve a dual purpose.

“Parents and students can seek dual-credit high school-level courses that transfer to state universities to reduce the college credits required to graduate and reduce college costs,” he says.

Invite family and friends to help

Your friends and family members may be more than willing to contribute to college savings for themselves or a loved one if they knew it was an option. For example, instead of getting vacation pay or some cash in a birthday card, they can put the same amount into a student savings plan.

Patricia Roberts of GiftofCollege.com says most don’t know what to buy their kids for birthday and Christmas gifts anyway, and they might welcome the opportunity to give a meaningful gift that won’t outgrow them. Additionally, giving a higher education gift is easy, as most 529 plans allow account holders to invite others. There are even gift cards for this purpose, including ones you can purchase through the Gift of College platform.

“Even small gifts can add up over time and really make a difference,” says Roberts.

Get student grants from your employer

PayforEd’s Fred Amrein points out that some employers help employees earn college degrees. For example Starbucks
SBUX
offers all eligible part-time and full-time employees the opportunity to earn a first-time bachelor’s degree at no cost through Arizona State University’s online program.

Amrein strongly recommends checking whether your company, or a company you want to work for, also offers student grants. In fact, federal law allows employees to receive up to $5,250 per year in tuition tax-free, and the contribution is also tax-free on behalf of the employer through December 31, 2025.

This means that your company has an incentive to offer this benefit and you will not be penalized for receiving it. Best of all, $5,250 is pretty generous and, depending on the program, can be enough to cover a year’s tuition and fees.

Take scholarships seriously

Brian Galvin, who serves as chief academic officer for Varsity Tutors, says students who want to avoid or minimize debt should treat their scholarship search like a part-time job.

There’s a lot of grant money out there, but very few of it will come and you’ll find it, he says. Not only that, but most students who cover all or most of the college do not do so on a full scholarship directly from the university, but rather on several smaller grants from businesses, non-profit organizations, local civic groups, and other sources.

Those sources exist, Galvin says, but it’s up to you to seek them out by using your careers adviser, doing research, writing essays, and attending local women’s club and Rotary club events where scholarships are discussed.

“The more obscure the scholarship, the less competition there is, so the scholarship hunt really pays off.”

Never stop negotiating

Finally, Student Loan Planner’s Travis Hornsby says that students who want to minimize borrowing should focus their energies on negotiating their financial aid package. For example, you can ask your school’s financial aid office to use “professional judgment” in deciding whether you are eligible for additional help.

Hornsby says this can result in several thousand being cut off your tuition bill each year, with no additional work on your part outside of the time you spent applying.

“Colleges discount their rates heavily, and knowing that saves a lot of money,” says Hornsby.

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