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I’ll be honest with you. It bothers me when people say it’s impossible for the average student to graduate without debt. They argue that only the rich kids or those with enormous brainpower can do it. However, I’ve seen normal, blue-collar people put their kids through school. Moreover, others have found ways to pay for college without student loans.

Yes, it takes hard work and perseverance. But if you stick with it, you can graduate from college without any debt!

Imagine, if you will, what it would feel like to start life debt-free. Considering that the average American is drowning in debt, I would say you would be off to a good start! Below are a few ways to pay for college without student loans.

First, Some Resources for You

Are you already in debt and looking for a way out? Check out my FREE eBook below!

Also, no matter what, you need a plan. Personally, I think there’s no better plan out there than the one laid out in Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover. This is easily the BEST personal finance book on the market. Dave’s plan is what I use, and I believe it will help you, too!

Last one, I promise! Debt Free Degree by Anthony ONeal is one of the best resources out there if you want to pay for college without debt. This step-by-step guide is a must-have for anyone who wants to pay for college without going into debt.

1. Use a 529 or an Education Savings Account

529s and Educations Savings Accounts are always a great way to start. This one may be more directed at parents, but it still stands as a valid way to pay for college.

In other words, if you want to help your kids through college, you need to know about these ways to save!

RELATED: How to Start Investing for Your Kids: Setting Up Your Children for Financial Success

What is a 529?

A 529 is an investment account for college savings. The best part is you can open up a 529 as soon as your child is born! Moreover, there is no contribution limit and the money will grow tax-free.

Just keep in mind that if you contribute more than $15,000 it will be subject to the federal gift tax. Most states offer a state-run 529 plan.

However, I recommend opening one up with an investment professional so you can pick your own mutual funds.

What is an Education Savings Account (ESA)?

An ESA is similar to the 529 with a few key differences. For one, an ESA has a contribution limit of $2,000. For another, your child must use the money before the age of 30 to avoid penalties.

However, it is also a valuable investment vehicle that can yield great returns! For a better comparison, check out this article by Chris Hogan.

2. Get an After-School Job and Start Saving!

Okay, from here on out I’m going to be talking to the students! If your parents don’t have anything saved for your education, it’s up to you. Therefore, I encourage you to consider getting an after-school job as soon as you can legally work. Work at Chick-fil-A, walk dogs, mow lawns, or do whatever it takes to start making some money.

By the way, this isn’t going to be party money. On the contrary, this is money to invest in your future!

3. Consider Going to Community College

There is absolutely no shame in going to a community college for your first two years. You simply can’t afford to go to a four-year college if you don’t have the money saved for it.

Remember, we’re wanting to pay for college without student loans, and community college is a great way to save money. Furthermore, there are several states that offer community college for FREE to residents.

Additionally, the average cost for in-state tuition at a two-year community college is $3,570. Stay at home, work a job, and knock out your general education courses at your local community college!

4. Go to an In-State School

Once again, unless you and your parents have a ton of money saved, you should really consider going to an in-state school. Here is a comparison of average tuition costs:

  • Public two-year tuition for in-district students: $3,570
  • Public four-year for in-state students: $9,970
  • Public four-year for out-of-state students: $25,620
  • Private four-year college: $34,740

Students choose to go to out-of-state schools for various reasons. For example, maybe they earned an academic or athletic scholarship. However, some also choose to go out of state to get away from family or because a campus has pretty trees.

It’s fine to go out of state if you have the money. Otherwise, stick to an in-state school.

5. Apply for Scholarships

Before you go off to college, apply for every scholarship you can find! Scholarships make school affordable. Moreover, you can even go to school for free if you find enough of them!

Check out Scholly,, or many others and apply for as many as you can!

6. Apply for Grants

The US government and several states also offer grants and scholarships. While many are based on financial need, there are also some based on merit.

The best way to find out about these is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). However, they will also offer you federally-funded student loans.

Make sure you only accept grant money. Also, be sure you contact your state department of education for state-specific benefits.

7. Work While You’re in College

When I was in college, I knew a guy who stopped halfway through because he ran out of money. He got a job as a construction worker to save up and pay for school.

I asked him why he didn’t take out loans, and he said he didn’t want to borrow money. But wait, didn’t he miss out on college life? Nope, he was still our friend and hung out with us regularly. He graduated without debt and has an impressive net worth today.

There’s no shame in working while attending college. Remember, you’re there to get an education so you can meet your life goals. Instead of playing beer pong and living in perpetual drunkenness, why not get a job so you can pay for college without student loans? Below are some ways to do it.

Work-Study Programs

These are typically on-campus jobs. Normally, you can get these jobs by filling out the FAFSA. However, they don’t offer the highest rate of pay. But they can help you get some extra pocket money for school expenses.

Off-Campus Jobs

Wait tables, work at Chick-fil-A, or deliver pizzas. There are any number of jobs in a college town! Additionally, with the advent of modern technology, there are tons of ways to earn extra money through side businesses, delivery apps, and more.

If needed, you can also work full-time. However, I only recommend that if you’re in a situation where you need to support a family or if you run out of money.

8. Live Off Campus

Living off campus can save you major dollars. Simply pick a few friends and rent an apartment or house together.

Sure, it’s not always the most convenient thing. Sometimes you end up with four other dudes in a broken-down house that only has one pink bathroom (yes, this exact scenario happened to me).

However, you can put up with a few inconveniences to pay for college without student loans.

9. Consider Going to Trade School Instead

Our culture continues to perpetuate the myth that you need a college degree to succeed. Truth is, there are many professions that do not require a full college degree.

Instead, you can go to a trade school for a fraction of the cost of a four-year degree. Some of these professions include electricians, mechanics, plumbers, contractors, machinists, and many more.

Let’s face it. College isn’t for everyone. If you like working with your hands, a trade school may be the way for you.

You Can Pay for College Without Student Loans

As you can see, it’s totally possible to pay for college without student loans. However, it involves sacrifice and perseverance. I want you to consider that the average borrower has more than $32,000 in student loans. I encourage you not to fall into the trap.

Tools for Success

Moving forward, there are more things you can do. For one, start making a budget while you are in college. You make not think you have enough money to budget. However, you need to start practicing this now! It will set you up for success.

You’ll also want to save up some money for an emergency fund. Even having just $1,000 can serve as a buffer between you and most minor emergencies. If you can, save 3-6 months of expenses for better protection.

Also, don’t forget to be generous with the little money you do have. After all, God loves a cheerful giver. And I would also encourage you to remember the Bible’s warnings about debt.

Make a plan and stick to it! And remember, you got this!

If you need a more in-depth discussion on how to pay for college without student loans, I highly encourage you to check out Debt Free Degree by Anthony ONeal! Just click the link above and take a look at it!

*This article contains affiliate marketing links. For more information, please read my disclaimer.

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