college

Debt-free college degree

A college degree is a great investment for people wanting to land their dream job or wanting to switch careers. But a college degree can be a money pit for students who fail to consider the financial aid options available to them. If you don't want to be in debt for the rest of your life, approach student loans as a worst-case scenario. The best way to pay for college is to seek grants and scholarships. Here are some tips to help you get a degree with little or no debt.

Grants

You could be eligible to receive a grant depending on where you live. To find out if you qualify, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, so that your personal expected family contribution, or EFC, number can be sent to the schools you'd like to attend.

Scholarships

Approach the scholarship application process like a full-time job. Students can receive awards based on criteria such as GPA, where the student lives, ethnicity, religion and financial need. Fill out as many scholarship applications as you can.

Undergraduate students have more government and scholarship money available to them than those pursuing master's or doctorate degrees.

Employer tuition assistance

Some companies and organizations provide tuition assistance as a perk to their employees. The company's human resources office should be able to tell you more. Employer tuition programs are best for students taking graduate-level courses.

Loans

If you want to finish your degree debt-free, it goes without saying that you should avoid loans if at all possible. Taking out a single loan can become a contagious habit. Some students finance their entire college educations using loans. The amount can total as much as a home mortgage and take 30 years or more to pay off. Consider your other options before taking out loans.

When you receive your degree and your dream job, it would be nice to start paying yourself first instead of a bank or government agency.

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