Tips for Graduating Debt Free

by Broke Professional on September 26, 2011 · 13 comments

It is probably one of the dreams of every student to have a debt free college education. Luckily there are a few ways to get through college without having a heavy debt burden hanging over your head for years. Here are a few ways I can think of to graduate debt free. I used a couple of these methods myself.

Debt Free College Education Tip #1 – Get your Employer to Pay

Tuition reimbursement plans are a way of getting your degree on your employer’s dime. Tuition reimbursement means that your employer will pay you back once you have completed the degree you enrolled in if you follow their eligibility guidelines. Some companies will require you to maintain a certain GPA to be eligible. Other companies may require you to stay on as an employee for at least a few years after graduating. Usually the requirements are a small price to pay for getting a free education.

Debt Free College Education Tip #2 – Score a Scholarship

There are plenty of scholarships out there for ambitious students. Keeping a high grade point average throughout your high school years or scoring an extremely high SAT score can put you in line for a debt free college education. There are also a bunch of scholarships available for almost every school activity including band, choir, and Student Council. Scholarships exist for specific cultures or circumstances as well. I think that there are at least a few scholarships to apply for no matter who you are.

I personally received one main scholarship before I started college, the Academic Achievement Award, for having a high SAT score. I then applied for and received several other scholarships my freshman year from my minor, my student job, and even from the Honors College.

Debt Free College Education Tip #3 – Pick the Right Major

Your major can go a long way to determining whether you will owe money on your loans after college or not. Nursing majors are so in demand that, in some cases, their loans are being forgiven by government agencies. The federal government will forgive a certain percentage of the student loan amount owed for every year of employment. They also receive their regular salaries and benefits too. I also know a few teachers that chose to work in the poorer districts for several years to get student loan debt forgiven.

Debt Free College Education Tip #4 – Get a Job

Another way of obtaining a debt free college education is to get a job. I worked in several on campus positions throughout college and polished off my last year with 3 part-time jobs in total. I worked in the on-campus Games Room after my Tuesday and Thursday classes, was a receptionist at a tax office Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and dealt blackjack or poker for business events on Friday and Saturday nights. I had friends that simply took paid summer internships to pay off the majority of their bills.

In short, it is possible to get a debt free college education in a variety of ways. Even if you don’t graduate completely debt free, these suggestions could help you keep your student loans to a minimum.

Can you think of any other ways to help put a dent in college costs?

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Briana @ 20 & Engaged September 26, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Great tips! I wish my employer would pay for my education haha but since I’m going the freelance route, looks like I’m still stuck with the bill on this one. But scholarships and grants definitely helped me stay debt free.

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2 Crystal Stemberger September 28, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Yeah, I was fresh out of highschool for my degree and we paid for my husband’s masters out of pocket. I am very appreciative for the scholarships I received…

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3 krantcents September 26, 2011 at 8:09 pm

Good points! I recommend to my students to work part time for banks and take advantage of the tuition reimbursement. I suggest banks because they usually are very accommodating for part time work.

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4 Crystal Stemberger September 28, 2011 at 3:07 pm

I hadn’t heard that about banks, thanks!

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5 Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter September 27, 2011 at 10:48 am

Like Briana, I wish my employer had more education sponsorship. I guess since I work in the public sector they have to be careful where they spend their money or people will ridicule them.

I agree with picking the right major. I know so many friends who are doing degree after degree because they can’t make up their mind. They are just spending money not earning any. Pick a goal and stick with it. It is much cheaper.

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6 Crystal Stemberger September 28, 2011 at 3:08 pm

I was one of the few that picked a major and just stuck with it…probably saved me $10,000 and an extra year…

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7 neo September 27, 2011 at 11:07 am

My view is that individuals should focus on obtaining a low cost undergrad degree and minimizing any college loan debt. Then target an employer that will help pay for a graduate degree. You are better off spending your money on a quality grad school rather then a big name undergrad degree.

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8 Crystal Stemberger September 28, 2011 at 3:08 pm

True unless you aren’t getting a graduate degree. :-)

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9 Financial Success for Young Adults September 27, 2011 at 2:48 pm

I would definitely say get work experience while getting your degree. You can pay for classes as you go and most likely graduate with a job lined up.

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10 Crystal Stemberger September 28, 2011 at 3:09 pm

That is sort of how it worked out for me. All of those jobs I held while going to school made me look good in my interview with the job I started a few weeks after graduating.

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11 Sher@fatguyskinnywallet.com September 27, 2011 at 11:23 pm

Great tips! I only wish I had this information before I went to college.

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12 Pamela September 28, 2011 at 7:43 am

I did #2 and #4. I also took cheap credits where I could find them.

I took advanced placement exams so I started with a few credits when I enrolled in college. Every summer, I’d take evening classes in required subjects at the local community college. And I graduated a semester early getting my last six credits while traveling through Europe.

Yes, it was cheaper to take six credits in Renaissance and Reformation history traveling around another continent than it was to stay one last semester at my private college.

Because I was debt free, I bought my first house at age 23 instead of the average age of 30.

This should be required reading for every college freshman. The six who actually took it seriously would benefit tremendously. :)

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13 Crystal Stemberger September 28, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Hahaha. We bought our house when I was 24 and my husband was 23 and it will be paid off in the next 5 years (before I hit 34), so I am a big fan of no college debt. :-)

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