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9 ways to attend college for free

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Another way students can avoid taking on debt is by entering a high-needs field. Individual schools offer incentives to students in math, science, nursing, teaching and social work, and additional opportunities are 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 the University of Portland in Oregon has offered scholarships covering approximately 80% of the final 2 years of undergraduate study, if students sign a 3-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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