Student Finance

Paying for College Without Loans

The term “sticker shock” was born in auto dealership showrooms. It is now attributed to the hefty price tags of colleges and universities.

1. Cost of college

Schools have blurred the true cost of college by advertising prices that scare consumers. However, the appeal is in reducing the price dramatically with a financial aid package that makes it feel too good of a deal to pass up. The advertised cost for attending Harvard in 2017-2018 was $73,600 yet the “actual cost” for students which received financial aid was only a fraction of that scary figure, being an average of $12,000. Although hardly any other university has Harvard’s $35 billion endowment fund, there are still many ways to deal with these costs. However, first we need to make sure we understand what is meant by cost.

Tuition and fees

This is the actual degree part, the classes and courses you pay for. There is no standard tuition and fee rate for colleges, but the general rule of thumb is that the more prestigious the school, the higher the tuition.


The cost of accommodation can vary dramatically depending on your school’s location. Also, you can choose to live in a dorm, an apartment off-campus, or stay at home.


You will need to buy books, pens and pencils and most likely a laptop, perhaps even a printer. These are not negligible costs.


Besides buying a bicycle, a scooter or a motorcycle, you will also need to pay a fee so you can park them on campus. If you use public transportation, you need a monthly pass. Experts suggest to allocate a figure of $1,500 for transportation. A car doubles that cost as there is fuel and maintenance to think of. If you need to go home by plane, your transportation budget might be closer to $5,000.

Personal expenses

This is a highly subjective category that balances between needs and wants. You probably need a cell phone these days, but do you really need cable?  Re-assess your spending habits.

2. How to pay for college without student loans

No matter which college route you end up choosing, it won’t be cheap. The normal thing is to take out a student loan, yet this will not ensure you have a shot at a great career but will place you on a road to hell as it can take you up to 30 years to repay it. No wonder some families are rethinking student loans, or college altogether but “borrow money or skip college” the dilemma is a myth. You don’t have to do either one as there are many ways to obtain great education and career opportunities without drowning in debt while eliminating your odds to build wealth.

Apply for aid

Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA form is what schools use to figure out what kind of aid you can obtain. You can get this financial aid all throughout college, so it’s important to fill it every year.

Go to community college first

Community colleges allow students to obtain a degree at a fraction of a cost by allowing them to complete the basics for two years and then transfer to a Bachelor course for years three and four. Many mistakenly believe attending community college will hurt their odds for finding a good job after graduation. The truth is that employers mostly look at the degree you obtained.

Explore Trade Schools

Trade schools offer practical and highly marketable skills such as electrical work, mechanics and plumbing. Moreover, these programs cost less and take less time to complete so they should not be ignored.

Apply for Scholarships

Scholarships offer you an ideal scenario considering that they are funds you never have to pay back. But, they should be approached just like job hunting. Spend your summer breaks and weekends doing research over the internet, connect with your local community to identify opportunities and be ready to write a lot of essays and apply to as many scholarships you can find.

Work during school

Studies showed that students working a part-time job often have better grades than those who aren’t employed. There are many convenient jobs on campus, but you can also market a valuable skill or hobby. You can give music lessons or tutor. It can be stressful at times when you need to coordinate 20 hours of work per week with your papers and exams, but long-term, it is much less stressful than repaying debt.

3. How to save money while in college

There is no need to be a starving student without a life as there are countless ways to save money while at college.

Don’t buy new textbooks.

Textbooks can be surprisingly expensive so try to borrow them from the library or a fellow student or from the university library. Alternatively, used textbooks are cheaper and easy to find on However, you can also rent them from Barnes & Noble’s textbook service or order a digital textbook which is always less expensive than a paper format.

Use the perks of your student ID

A valid student ID will get you a discount on pretty much everything: from tech to clothing and everything in between.

Trim your food bill

Student discounts aside, the costs of eating out can add up quickly. Consider investing in a good coffee maker instead of spending money every morning in Starbucks. If you have a meal plan, use it.

Live off campus

Although living on campus is a significant part of the college experience, living off-campus in a shared apartment or even staying with your parents can significantly reduce your overall college costs.

Reduce your utility bill

With so many energy companies in Dallas, there is a variety of different deals and rates. Choosing a rate that does not correspond to your usage will end up costing you several hundreds of dollars more on your utility bill.

Follow campus events

Check out activities that are available on campus as many will be free of charge.

Final word

Don’t be discouraged by the financial figures. There are ways to pay for college without the pain and stress of student loans. You need to make sure you have an accurate idea of how much it will truly cost you to attend your school of choice so you can make a detailed action plan. There is always a way and experts agree that college is almost always worth the investment.


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