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7 alternative ways to pay for college

“Debt should be avoided at all costs,” says Raza Khan, president and co-founder of MyRichUncle. “But when you need to borrow, you should shop around for the lowest rate possible.”

6. Lock in tuition
Can't stand the way college tuition keeps shooting up? Consider locking in a single tuition rate for four years.

The tuition rate you pay as a wet-behind-the-ears freshman is guaranteed until you graduate. No more losing sleep over skyrocketing tuition costs.

Colleges with locked-in tuition programs include Anna Maria College in Paxton, Mass.; Baylor University in Waco, Texas; Centenary College of Louisiana in Shreveport, La.; Concordia University in River Forest, Ill.; Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas; Huntington College in Huntington, Ind.; Urbana University in Urbana, Ohio; the University of Charleston in Charleston, W.Va.; and New York's Pace University.

Some schools offer guaranteed-tuition programs for free. Others charge fees. Be sure to check.

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7. Work off debt with community service
Got your degree? Why not do some good and wipe out a big chunk of education debt at the same time?

Recent college grads can cancel part or all of their federal-education debt by working in public-service jobs -- lower-paying professional jobs that serve low-income communities -- or by volunteering.

Loan-forgiveness programs are available to everyone from teachers to nurses to young doctors and lawyers to Peace Corps volunteers.

Teachers who work in low-income elementary or secondary schools may be able to cancel as much as $5,000 of their federal Stafford loan debt.

The National Health Service Corps offers loan-forgiveness programs to physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, midwives, dentists, dental hygienists, psychologists and therapists who work for two years in communities in great need of health professionals.

Similar programs are available to attorneys who pursue public interest careers. About 50 law schools offer loan-forgiveness or loan-repayment assistance programs. The National Association of Public Interest Law has a list of the schools on its Web site. The site also lists state and employer loan-repayment-assistance programs.

Several volunteer organizations also provide assistance with student loan debt.

Peace Corps volunteers who complete a two-year term can wipe out 30 percent of their Perkins loans' balance. Student loan payments may also be deferred while serving in the Peace Corps.

Members of Americorps and Volunteers in Service to America receive educational awards of $4,725 for each year of service. These awards can be applied to student loans or future education expenses.

-- Updated: March 6, 2006




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