Go To College Debt Free! Pay Off Student Loan Debt!

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College is a huge topic these days. Some may think college is a waste of time and money. Others may think it’s the key to success. Deciding to go to college is a business decision. Depending on your industry and the specific job you want, you may or may not need a college degree. Whether if you’re starting your own business, working for a company or both, it’s up to you to decide if going to college is a wise decision. I recommend choosing what you feel is best for you. Don’t choose to go or not go based on what others may say. Instead, make the decision for YOU.

If you’ve decided that college is for you, then it’s time to be proactive with learning your financial options. Choose a major that will contribute to the “Level Up” in your career. The goal is to NOT depend on student loans. Did you know that 44 million Americans collectively owe $1.5 Trillion in student loan debt? That’s a lot of money. Why borrow when there are debt free options? We just have to take the time and energy to research and apply for those debt free opportunities.

Are you going to college for the firs time? Are you currently in college? Are you going back to college? Are you worried because you don’t have any college savings? Do you already have student loans and want to get rid of them? If any of these apply to you, then these tips will help you maneuver through your debt free college education journey and student loan debt pay off plan. Check out both set of tips below: “17 Ways To Go To College Debt Free” and “9 Ways To Pay Off Student Loans.

17 Ways To Go To College Debt Free:

  1. BUDGET: Every month you should use a budget to manage your income and expenses. College will not only require you to manage your finances effectively, but also your time management skills. You’ll need to consider your needs vs wants. Live below your means. Pay yourself first, then take care of your basic living expenses and college expenses second. You’ll need to determine which expenses can be temporarily or permanently decreased or eliminated until you finish your college degree. This is extremely important especially if you’re paying out of pocket.

  2. IN-STATE SCHOOLS: In-state tuition is drastically lower than out-of-state tuition. Start searching for schools in your own state to save money. If you’re offered a full scholarship to an out-of-state school, that’s great. If don’t have enough scholarships, grants or savings to pay those out-of-state fees, then attending an in-state school is a wise financial choice.

  3. COMMUNITY COLLEGE: Community colleges are always cheaper than four-year universities. You can save time and money by taking those prerequisites (typically freshman and sophomore classes) at the community college. You can also save time because some classes can be a full semester at a four-year university and those same classes can be one to three months at a community college. Saving time and money is a huge PLUS.

  4. TRADE SCHOOL: If you know of a specific skill you need, then consider trade school. You’ll be able to gain the knowledge, skills and experience in less time and money compared to traditional colleges and universities.

  5. FASFA: Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid will allow you to verify if you’re eligible for grants and student loans. Since the majority of students struggle with repaying student loan debt, you should continue to focus on debt free options. You have the option to decline student loan offers.

  6. SCHOLARSHIPS & GRANTS: If you don’t have a college savings, you need to apply for scholarships and grants. Start by researching with churches, organizations, high schools, colleges, businesses, financial aid offices, scholarship departments, school counselors, academic advisors, teachers, professors, tutors and coaches. If you don’t qualify for the traditional athletic or academic scholarships, there are still thousands of other scholarships and grants you could be eligible for. There are scholarships and grants for single parents, left handed students, minorities, students who participate in certain activities/hobbies and so much more. Since many scholarships aren’t heavily advertised, you’ll have to research and network to find them. Whether if it’s a small or large amount, start applying for as many scholarships and grants as possible. This is your new job. Every dollar counts.

  7. MY SCHOLARSHIP: Apply for the “Debt Free Is The Way To Be Scholarship.” I started this scholarship to help students pay for their college expenses without depending on student loans. I personally know how it feels to drown in student loan debt. Now that I know there are plenty of debt free options, I now educate others on how to go to college debt free. If you would like to donate, that would be awesome! Your funds will be used towards one scholarship winner every April (National Financial Literacy Month).

  8. MYSCHOLLY: Sign up for myscholly.com to gain full access to a large database of scholarships. You can sign up on their website or use their app. The cost to access their full database of scholarships is $2.99 per month, but that is a small price to pay for what you’ll receive.

  9. EMPLOYER: Ask your employer if they have tuition reimbursement. You’ll have to pass the class first, then submit your request for reimbursement. If you’re a young student, you can ask your parents if their employer offers tuition reimbursements for children and dependents.

  10. INCREASE INCOME: Create ways to make more money. Ask for a raise or more hours at work. Get a second or third job temporarily. Request work study at your school. If you’re unemployed, get a job. Start your own business or side hustle. You can be successful in school and work at the same time. You just have to manage your time productively and put your college education as one of your top priorities.

  11. DISCOUNTS: Ask your school for paid in full tuition discounts. Most will give a discount in exchange for paying the tuition in full instead of a payment plan.

  12. DUAL CREDITS: Earning high school credits and college credits at the same time is earning dual credits. Check with your teachers and counselors regarding AP (Advance Placement) and IB (International Baccalaureate) classes. The more college credits you earn in high school, the less college credits you’ll need to earn in college.

  13. ACT & SAT EXAMS: Take the ACT and/or SAT exams a few times. This gives you the opportunity to increase your scores. The higher the scores, the more scholarships and grants you could receive.

  14. MAXIMIZE YOUR HOURS: Some colleges will charge $4,500 per semester for 12 credit hours or more. If the maximum amount of hours to take per semester is 18 hours, it’s best to take the 18 hours because you’re paying for it anyway. If you’re worried that you can’t take 18 hours and still work full time, it can be done. You’ll need to get creative with your time management and remind yourself that your new college/work schedule is temporary but necessary to reach the next level you desire.

  15. ASK FRIENDS & FAMILY: You may have someone in your life who is in a financial position to support your debt free college education. Make sure you’re aren’t just asking for money. Instead, share your goals and action plans so they will be well educated on why it’s a great idea to donate their money.

  16. MILITARY: If you or your parents are in the military, you may be eligible to use tuition assistance and/or GI Bill. Check with your service branch for more details.

  17. NETWORK: Talk with people in your community, at school, work, gym, events, and social media. Don’t just reach out to people for favors. Actually build genuine relationships. Many opportunities are received based on who you know.

9 Ways To PAY OFF STUDENT LOANS:

  1. STOP BORROWING: They key to getting out of debt is to stop borrowing more debt. Promise yourself and your financial future that you’ll be proactive in taking advantage of debt free options.

  2. BUDGET: Before you can begin to tackle any debt, you must get your basic living expenses in order. Budgeting will help you get organize and make wise financial decisions. Once you get that in order, then start your student loan pay off plan. Determine your needs vs wants. List your priorities in order of importance. Find creative ways to decrease expenses and increase income. Be willing to go without some luxuries and wants for a while. These sacrifices will allow you to put more money towards debt.

  3. DON’T IGNORE DEBT: Let’s be real. YOUR STUDENT LOANS AREN’T GOING ANYWHERE! Even if you chose to file bankruptcy, you still can’t get rid of them because they don’t apply in bankruptcy court. There are some cases where you can get rid of them in bankruptcy court, but these are extreme and rare cases. You would have to prove you earn no money or very little money and don’t have enough to pay the debt. If there’s any evidence anywhere that you spend money on more than just your basic living expenses, then you will not qualify. Ignoring the debt only causes it to increase due to the interest that continues to accrue. You’ll also risk getting your wages being garnished. Typically a collector is required to have a court order to garnish wages. Student loan collectors don’t need a court order. They can also seize tax returns, deny grants, prevent you from borrowing new student loans and take a portion of social security payments.

  4. CONTACT THE LENDER: Contact your lender to verify if you have private or federal student loans, the balance owed, interest rate and what pay off options are available. If you’re currently in school, you can request a deferment. Once you graduate or decide to no longer attend school, the payments will be due. If you’re no longer attending school and unable to pay right now due to a financial hardship, you can request a forbearance which would stop payments temporarily. If you’re ready to make payments you can request an income based repayment plan. Pay more than the minimum. It’s similar to credit cards. If you only pay the minimum amount, it will take longer to pay off and cost more in interest. Paying more than the minimum will allow you to pay more towards the principal.

  5. EXTRA MONEY: If you get a raise, bonus, monetary gifts or tax refunds use them to pay towards student loan debt. Consider getting a second or third job temporarily. Extra money doesn’t mean extra spending. Be proactive and use that extra money towards something that will improve your financial future. The only way to get rid of debt is to get serious and make drastic financial moves.

  6. EMPLOYER: More employers are helping employees pay off student loan debt. Debt can sometimes cause financial stress, which can lead to low productivity at work. In order to increase work productivity and financial freedom, employers are helping in a huge way. Ask your employer if they offer this benefit. If they don’t, ask if they will consider adding it as an employee benefit.

  7. DISABLED: If you’re partially or completely disabled, you may be eligible to have your student loan debt waived. You’ll have to present official paperwork to confirm your disability.

  8. LOAN FORGIVENESS: If you’re employed by a qualified government or not-for-profit organization, you may be eligible for the PSLFP (Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program). This applies to public service jobs and teachers. In order to be eligible, you’ll have to work for the qualified employer for five to ten years and make every payment on time. If you miss one payment, you are NO LONGER ELIGIBLE.

  9. RESOURCES: Check out these additional resources for more tips for paying off student loan debt: FSA (Federal Student Aid), studentloans.gov, and NSLDS (National Student Loan Data System).

Still need help? Book a financial coaching session. If you have more tips to share, send them to hello@cleochildress.com. Thank you!