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7 Ways to Pay for College without Student Loans

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Just last week the U.S. Senate voted against a bill that would have extended the 3.4% interest rate on federal student loans for one more year. Because the bill did not pass, rates have doubled to 6.8 percent. The increase will most likely cause college students to pay thousands more in interest to go to college.

Parents of college-bound teenagers and the students themselves are stressed about the rising costs of college. Figuring out how to pay for college can be difficult, and many people turn to loans. Here are seven alternatives that might come in handy:

1. Take AP classes during high school.

Advanced Placement (AP) exams, created and offered by the College Board, cover college-level curriculum in a variety of subjects. AP classes that help prepare for the exams, which are held each May, are offered at high schools across the United States, but students are not required to take AP classes to sit for the exams. The exams are scored on a scale of one to five with five being the highest. Policies and minimum scores vary, but many colleges and universities grant college credit to students who earned a specific score on an AP exam. Eligible students are not required to take that class in college—or pay its tuition!

2. Take advantage of dual enrollment programs.

Dual enrollment programs allow students to enroll in two schools at one time, most often a high school and a community college. Dual enrollment students who meet their school or school board’s requirements are able to take college classes for credit before they graduate from high school. These classes are often free or reduced in price. They are often held on the college’s campus, but if enough high school students are participating classes might be held right at the high school.

3. Attend the college or university that offers you the best financial aid package.

Students are encouraged to apply to more than one college in order to have more options—if the only school you applied to didn’t accept you, where would you go to school? If, though, you were fortunate enough to be accepted by multiple colleges and universities, take a close look at the cost to attend each one. It would seem almost pointless to go into debt to attend one if the other is offering you a full ride.

4. Go to community college before you transfer to a four-year university.

The rumor is true—tuition at a community college is generally much less than it is a state school, and community college is dramatically cheaper than a private university. It’s possible to save a bundle by earning a two year degree before transferring to a four year university.

5. Ask for more money!

Admissions officers and financial aid counselors aren’t used car salesmen, but trying to negotiate can’t hurt. Explain that you would love to attend “their” school but it just doesn’t fit your budget. You may find out about scholarships or grants that were originally offered to students who will not be attending the school after all.

6. Apply for scholarships.

Scholarships are awarded for more than good grades. Apply for as many as possible! They are essentially free money for college that doesn’t have to be paid back—money that might help you avoid student loans altogether.

7. Skip the dorm and live at home.

Not only is community college cheaper, it will give you the opportunity to live at home for two more years, hopefully rent-free! Room and board on campus can raise your total college costs considerably. And if your family lives near a four-year school, too, even better. It may not be the “college experience” seen in the movies, but living with Mom and Dad can help you save big.


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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