One of the best ways an individual can avoid college debt is to establish a well-thought-out plan.
I have encountered students in my line of work who make plans to attend college for several reasons (e.g. relocate, appease their parents, accomplish career goals, etc.). No matter what drives one to transition to college, I encourage my clients to develop a strategy that will allow them to incur little to no debt. There is not a correct way to decrease college costs, but there are a few options to consider below.
Attend a Community College
Community Colleges are a great place to earn credits toward an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree. I have several students who have applied their scholarships and grants to attend community college debt-free. These institutions provide open access admission and typically offer workforce training and general studies courses. Community colleges are more than likely to offer low rates for tuition and fees so scholarships and grants can cover more costs. Furthermore, some students attend community college before transferring to 4-year institutions.
Consider a Gap Year
A Gap Year is usually taken before attending college so students to engage in various experiences and/or activities. There are no rules to completing a gap year, however the intention is enrolling in a higher education program upon the completion of the Gap Year. Some of my clients have participated in volunteer opportunities during this time, reflected on their personal and professional goals, traveled abroad and/or started a business. During a Gap Year, some individuals move to a different state to establish residency in order to qualify for in-state tuition. Students also utilize this time to enhance their financial aid portfolio through securing additional college scholarships.
Work at a College
Many colleges and universities cover a course or two or more for their employees. Some institutions provide this benefit to full-time and part-time staff. Earlier in my career, I was a college advisor and enrolled in a statistics course and graduate-level writing class. As a full-time employee at the college, both courses were free.
“There are no wrong turnings. Only paths we had not known we were meant to walk.”
― Guy Gavriel Kay