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Students can also skip taking on debt by working in high-needs fields. Individual schools offer incentives to students in math, science, nursing, teaching and social work, but additional opportunities are also available through national organizations such as Teach for America, the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program and the National Institutes of Health.

The nursing program at University of Portland in Oregon will offer scholarships for approximately 80 percent of the final two years of undergraduate study, if students sign a three-year employment contract with the local health system, Fabriquer says. "There are similar programs in (high-needs) fields across the country," he adds.

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