The Debt-Free College Degree

Ciara Byrne
Charles DeLoye on Unsplash

In many countries, the cost of higher education can be overwhelming, especially for students who do not have financial support from their families. However, there are ways in which students can reduce their college expenses and save money while still getting the education that they want. The key to getting a debt-free college degree is knowing what options are available to you and how to use them to stay on track with your financial goals.

Browse scholarships

Scholarships are one of the best ways to pay for college and get a debt-free degree. Scholarships are free money that does not need to be paid back, and they can be used for tuition, fees, books and supplies, room and board, etc. There are scholarships for every type of student who needs some extra help paying for college:

  • Merit-based scholarships are awarded based on academic performance. These scholarships are competitive and require you to fill out an application. You must have a high GPA or score well on standardized tests to be eligible for one.
  • Athletic scholarships are awarded based on a student’s athletic abilities (most common in the US).
  • Need-based scholarships often require proof of financial need. You can get need-based scholarships from your college, the government, foundations, NGOs, and businesses.
  • Corporate scholarships are awarded by organizations or businesses that have a vested interest in helping students succeed, especially if they need to grow the number of professionals in a given field.

Where can you find scholarships though? If you are a high-school student, you can ask your guidance counselor if they know of any local or international scholarships available to students who live in your area or country.

You can also look through the websites of the colleges you want to apply to. If you don’t have your mind set on a college, you can always search websites that share scholarship information or join groups on social media, notably Facebook, dedicated to helping students find scholarships.

Get a student job

Most students can’t even dream about getting a well-paying job within their field while they are still attending classes. This is mainly because they don’t have the necessary experience. However, there are plenty of jobs and internships out there available to students that don’t require any experience and are a great way to earn money as a student. Online sources such as Salarship help you find these jobs by providing personalized recommendations as well as offering career advice to help you succeed.

Here are some reasons why you should consider working while in college:

  • Student jobs are easy to get because they often pay less than regular jobs. Regardless of your degree, working part-time will help make up the difference between what you make and what it costs to live while studying.
  • Student jobs will teach you how to work on your schedule and you’ll learn how to manage your time efficiently so that everything gets done.
  • Student jobs provide valuable resume-building experience and references. Having these experiences listed on your resume could make all the difference when applying for future full-time employment opportunities after graduation.

Apply for grants

Grants are free money from the government, and they're often awarded based on merit or need. Besides your tuition, sometimes grants cover your accommodation as well as your books and supplies. Grants are awarded to students who have good grades or spend a significant amount of time volunteering or pursuing extracurricular activities that make them stand out as an individual with great potential. Most students receive some combination of grants and scholarships throughout their college careers.

Look into tuition discounts and reimbursements

Another way to save yourself from mounting debt is to look into tuition reimbursement programs or tuition discounts. These programs allow employers to reimburse their employees for tuition fees (both for undergraduate and graduate studies), sometimes even up to the full cost.

Most employer-sponsored tuition reimbursement programs are administered by human resources departments or other employee relations departments. When you want to enroll in college, you submit an application form requesting approval for tuition reimbursement as part of your benefits package. Once approved, you'll receive payment directly from your employer for all eligible expenses related to attending classes. Employers determine eligibility requirements for these programs and set criteria for determining which classes qualify for reimbursement.

In some countries, joining the military is another way to get discounted tuition. Some colleges offer tuition discounts for student employees who work at the college such as teaching assistants.

Weigh all your options

If you want to save money, check all available options before you enroll. In some countries such as the United States, you might want to consider community college. Community colleges are much more affordable than four-year universities and can be a great way to get your general education classes out of the way, saving you money in the long run. If your college degree is in a field that allows transfer credits (like nursing or engineering), then getting your first two years of coursework done at community college is also a good idea as it makes transferring easier.

In some countries, such as Germany, students can attend public universities for free. That means that you will not be required to pay tuition fees. If you are not German or an EU citizen, you will have to apply for a residence permit. With your tuition covered, you will mainly have to worry about administrative fees, rent and utilities, internet, health insurance, food, etc.

Getting a debt-free degree is possible!

Graduating from college doesn’t have to come with a debt sentence. There are many money-saving options you can look into except the ones we listed such as attending online classes to minimize transportation costs and buying or renting second-hand books to avoid paying in full for educational materials. Yes, you might need to compromise on some ends and exert more effort, but you can get a degree that will not haunt you financially for years after you graduate.

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