How to Avoid College Debt : Our 10 Big Tips

Posted on April 20, 2023

Posted on April 20, 2023

Student loans are a great option for people who want a degree but otherwise can’t afford college. Taking out student loans means being saddled with a lot of debt upon graduation, however.

Whether you’re a new student or you’re far along in your college career, there are ways you can get ahead of college costs, or limit your borrowing, to start off in a strong position after graduation.

Find out how to avoid college debt and finish school without the burden of high student loans.

1. Embrace Hybrid or Alternative Learning

Online learning has created a unique option to avoid excessive debt and gain flexibility in your learning journey. Hybrid learning combines the affordability of an online education with in-person classes for a traditional college experience.

Though the per-credit cost may be close, the flexibility of a hybrid program can reduce the indirect costs that can rack up in college, such as paying for tolls or parking, gas for the commute, or enrolling children in childcare to attend classes. It also offers more flexibility to continue working a full-time schedule and earn income.

2. Earn Transfer Credits

Some higher education institutions are known for having exceptional programs in specific fields, such as the sciences or legal studies. If you want to benefit from these programs – and the school’s reputation – without paying the high cost, transfer credits are a go-to option.

State or community colleges often offer courses at a lower cost, so you can get some general education courses out of the way. Another option is an online college like Sophia Learning, which offers gen ed courses that you can complete at your own pace.

In most cases, you can still transfer the credits to your chosen school to finish your degree. It’s important to speak with your advisor in advance to ensure your transfer credits will be accepted, however.

3. Pay Out of Pocket

This may not be an option for everyone but paying for some – or all – of your college costs out of pocket can help you avoid student loan debt. Even if you can’t pay for all of your courses, paying for the occasional course will help you avoid high interest.

In addition, trying to pay on your own will motivate you to look for opportunities to reduce the costs, such as hybrid learning or transfer credits, rather than taking on more debt.

4. Test Out of Courses

Some colleges offer the option to “test out” of courses as one of the ways to decrease student loan debt. Depending on the school’s policy, you may be able to test out of gen ed courses and some intermediate courses, such as college-level sciences or math, and gain college credit.

Typically, this is done with the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP). The test covers all the information you would learn in the course, so you can demonstrate your knowledge of the material. There is a cost for the exams, but they’re usually much lower than the cost of the course.

5. Work-Related Debt Forgiveness

If you’re wondering how to avoid debt in college, it’s worth considering options for debt forgiveness after college. Though these usually apply to federal student loans, certain professions are eligible for debt forgiveness in exchange for a certain number of years of service.

These programs are available for in-demand professions, such as nursing and medical technicians, teachers, speech pathologists, firefighters, law enforcement, social workers, librarians, and military servicemembers. There are strict requirements for forgiveness, however, so be sure to explore your options.

6. Work On-Campus

Some institutions offer on-campus work as a way to reduce your college costs. These work-study programs vary by the college or university, but some examples include taking a role as a Resident Advisor in your dorm for discounts on housing, working at the school dining to cover food costs, or taking an administrative job at one of the campus offices.

7. Work Part-Time

If your school doesn’t offer a suitable on-campus job, then you may be able to take a part-time job to help with your college costs. Working part time will help you earn extra income for tuition, or to manage your living expenses, while you’re completing your degree.

Some students avoid working while in college because they fear they’ll fall behind with less study time, but the opposite is usually true. Students who work part time are higher academic achievers than students who only focus on school. That said, you will need strong time-management skills to keep up with your obligations.

8. Consider Repayment Plans

Some colleges and universities offer options for repayment as a solution for how to avoid student debt. Instead of taking out a loan or paying upfront, your tuition is spread over time in a repayment plan that’s interest free. If you’re trying to pay on your own, this helps you continue with your education without needing to take time off to save money.

9. Scholarships

Scholarships are available in a variety of places. Your financial aid office at your school can give you information about scholarships through the school itself, but you may find scholarships through your job or local community. Sometimes, local businesses like doctor’s offices or law firms offer scholarships for local students looking to enter their fields.

You could also find scholarships specific to majors or degree programs and backgrounds, such as the military, graduate students, or women. Here are some places to look:

  • Your school’s financial aid office

  • A high school counselor

  • The U.S. Department of Labor’s scholarship search tool

  • Federal scholarship programs

  • State grant agencies

  • The library’s reference section

  • Local civic groups, community organizations, and foundations

  • Ethnicity-based organizations

  • Professional associations relevant to your field of interest

  • Your employer

Do the work! It takes time and effort, but if you can get some scholarships, you can significantly reduce your college debt.

10. Speak with Your Advisor for How to Avoid Student Debt

Your advisor is your greatest asset, not just for your college experience, but for earning a degree in a cost-effective way. Your advisor can help you find available funding sources or scholarships, as well as tips and tricks like earning transfer credits.

Reduce or Eliminate Your Student Debt

No one wants to graduate saddled with a lot of student debt and high interest rates. Sophia Learning is just $99 a month for a subscription to take as many designed to transfer courses as you want, even two at a time, towards your degree. Take a look at our website or start your free trial today!

Category: Student Success

Subscribe to our blog

About once a month, we'll send you Sophia news, educational insights, and more. Only the good stuff - we promise.

*All fields are required.

Thanks for subscribing!

Start a free trial no credit card required!

Try a Sophia course for free. Your free trial work is applied toward course credit when you become a member.