How to Get a College Degree and Avoid Big Debts

There are many professional advantages associated with earning a degree such as the potential for increased job opportunities and higher wages. But when you’re juggling multiple financial obligations, getting a degree can seem costly and challenging. Thankfully, there are many financial resources that can help you meet your educational goals and stay out of debt.

The cost of pursuing a higher education often includes paying for tuition, school fees, books and other essential supplies. Students attending on-site classes may also need to cover transportation and living expenses. The thought of managing these payments without accumulating massive debt may seem daunting; however, by planning carefully and using your financial aid resources wisely, you may be able to fund your degree and avoid big debts.

Here are some tips on how prospective students of all levels—from professionals exploring online institutions to graduates considering public or private colleges—can pursue their higher education goals and avoid the financial pitfalls of excessive debt.

Research Public and Private Grants and Scholarships

  • Private College Grants – Some private colleges award educational grants to students who meet specific criteria such as financial need; however, since these funds do not need to be repaid, schools may have strict eligibility requirements for grant recipients.
  • Public Federal and State Grants – The Federal Pell Grant Program is designed to give need-based grants to qualifying low-income students. Many states also have grant programs that provide educational grants to eligible students attending public state universities.
  • Public/Private Educational Scholarships – Scholarships, like grants, are educational awards that do not need to be repaid. Several public and private organizations, education institutions, companies and community groups offer scholarships to qualifying students who meet select standards in categories such as scholastic achievement and athletic excellence.

Know Your Financial Aid Resources

  • Federal Financial Aid – The U.S. Department of Education offers students the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This important form is used by both public and private education institutions to design custom student financial aid packages based on key criteria like financial need and academic achievement.
  • College/University Financial Aid – Most public and private colleges and universities offer some form of financial aid for eligible students. This financial assistance may include grants, scholarships, loans or work study—programs where funds earned by students through part-time jobs are applied to their educational fees.

Explore Student Loans

  • Public Student Loans – Public student loans such as the fixed-rate Federal Stafford Loan or the low-interest Federal Perkins Loan may assist eligible students with education expenses not covered by grants, scholarships, work study or employment.
  • Private Student Loans – Many private education institutions offer loan programs for qualifying students. When used in combination with grants, scholarships or other forms of financial aid, private school loans may help students cover the various fees associated with earning an advanced degree.

Paying for a higher education can be challenging; however, with thorough preparation and careful use of financial aid resources like college grants, student loans, scholarships and work study, you may be able to fund your advanced degree without going into significant debt.

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