10 Creative Ways to Pay for College Without Student Debt

by | Aug 31, 2021 | Paying for College

Wondering how to pay for college? Wish there were more creative ways than sinking into a pile of student debt?

There are! Students can graduate debt-free with out-of-the-box ideas. How do I know? Because I was one of them.

Like many students, I didn’t qualify for FAFSA. Even as a first-generation college student, much of the financial aid wasn’t available to me.

My parents, wanting to get into the home rental business, had recently purchased a second home. This disqualified me and my brothers for FAFSA.

But that didn’t mean our only other option was student loans. In fact, student loans can and should be the last resort.

Below I share 10 creative ways to pay for college without going into debt.

1. Still in High School? Check Out College Courses

Believe it or not, you can start your college education in high school. Not sure how? 

With “Advanced Placement” (AP) classes. These are courses that help you get a sense of what college courses are like. You can even get course credit for college by passing the AP course exam. 

My brother and his friends started taking AP courses during their junior year. One of his friends took enough AP courses to qualify for most of their general education courses.

That’s at least 2 semester’s worth of classes they saved by taking AP courses. Here’s the top 5 hardest and easiest courses to get started with. Check it out!

2. Ask for Money on Special Occasions

Start asking for money from your family and friends for special occasions. This is something special you can use towards your college education or student debt. 

Let them know they’ll be helping you invest in your future.

3. Start at a Community College

Choosing your local community college for the university of your dreams is hard. It can help your pocket in the long run, though. 

Community college is less expensive than universities. According to Forbes one year at a public, 4-year university would be on average $10,440 in tuition. Compare that to one year at a community college for $3,730 in tuition a year. 

My dream university was UCLA. I knew my parents wouldn’t be able to afford it, so I went to my community college instead. 

That’s ok.

Just because you started at a community college doesn’t mean you have to stay there. Going to a community college will make more sense to attend for a few years and then transfer to a university.

You can complete your general education classes and get an associate degree. You will need to verify with a counselor what credits will transfer.

Which is exactly what I did. I received my associate’s degree and then transferred to my local university. 

4. Become a Paid Note Taker

You are already going to go to class and take notes, so why not get paid for it? In many universities and colleges, the disability resource center needs note-takers.

The notes are for other students who are unable to attend or unable to write their own notes.

I was asked to do it one semester. I didn’t know that existed before then. The pay is not much, but it did help pay for one of my books the following semester.

If something like this doesn’t exist in your school, create it.

5. Offer Your Paid Tutoring Services

Schools are always on the lookout for tutors. If you’re talented in a specific subject or subjects, check to see if they need tutors.

If they don’t need tutors, check around your community. Local high schools and middle schools are also in need of tutors. 

If you still can’t find anything, you can always create a tutoring service. This is one of the easiest and most creative ways to pay for college without working full-time.

6. Employer Reimbursement Programs to Pay for College

While going to college, many of us hope we don’t have to work. And yet, that’s not possible most of the time.

If you must work, investigate if they have an employee reimbursement program. Many companies are starting to pay for their employees’ tuition.

Companies like Starbucks and Target pay for your full tuition. Can you believe that?

The company I worked for didn’t pay full tuition. However, the help they gave me to pay for college was still a good amount. It allowed me to graduate with no student debt.

Important Note: Starbucks and Target do have specific universities you’ll need to attend to qualify for full tuition.

7. Become a Delivery Service Driver

If you don’t want to work where you’ll have a schedule, you can always work where you make your own schedule.

Working for Uber, Lyft, or any food delivery service will allow you to work on your own schedule. That’s right! You can find ways to pay for college and juggle college at the same time.

But, I get it. Not everyone wants to join one of those companies. You may know a group of students that need rides to campus. Set up your own rideshare service. 😊

8. Can’t Afford to Live on Campus? Live at Home

Many of us look forward to applying for college and moving out. If we can’t even afford college tuition, why would we add an extra expense?

Average room and board ranges from $8,060 – $11,890.

If you can’t live at home, find a roommate or two and rent a place that is within a reasonable budget. If you’re smart about moving out, even renting will be less expensive than college boarding. 

9. Find a High-Paying Side Job (Get a Hustle!)

Here’s another way to start saving while you are in high school. 

Let’s take Gene Caballero as an example. He started mowing lawns in high school to help pay for college. He continued into his second year in college and graduated debt-free.

But mowing lawns isn’t the only thing you can do. You can house sit for your family, friends, or neighbors while they are away. You could babysit or dog sit as well.

You never know. Maybe you enjoy these side jobs and turn them into a full-time business. That’s what Gene did as the founder of  GreenPal, now known as the Uber of lawn care.

10. Get Paid for Your Passion

We all have passions. Some of us even picked up a few during this last year. Why not get paid for them? 

I have a few friends who make jewelry. They all signed up for Etsy to start selling their designs.

I have a friend who makes her own skin and body care products. She started gaining popularity so she started making her own cleaning products. 

They all now have a little extra income to be able to pay for their college expenses. 

You can do the same. Have a passion for making shirts, photography, cleaning sports equipment, etc.? 

Make a little extra money with your passion. You’ll be doing something you love to do while paying for college. 

Find Creative Ways to Pay for College

You don’t have to rely on the traditional ways to pay for college. You can graduate with little to no debt. 

As you can see, there are creative ways to help you go to college and find some money that doesn’t equal student loan debt. Some side hustles that might even be fun. 😄

If you’re anything like me and don’t qualify for FAFSA, TRY THESE! Try all or some. You’ll be surprised how much you can earn. 

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