How to Get Through College Without Debt

As my daughter was getting ready to graduate high school, I was looking for information on college funding. I came across this article that I copied and pasted into “Word.” I wish that I had cited the source, but I cannot find it now. It isn’t my research, but the work is solid and worthy of being shared. I hope this can help you too!

How To Get Through College Without Debt

What you can do, as the College Graduate!

  • Celebrate! You just received a degree with NO DEBT! Awesome!
  • Take the cash that you saved over the years and go on a trip! You do deserve it!
  • Add it to your Resume’! Hey, why not advertise this! Not only is it an incredible achievement in this society of enormous debt, but it’s also a selling point because you know you will be a happier, less stressed, and more dedicated employee!

Why college?

There are all kinds of statistics today that tell us that having THE RIGHT education is well worth the investment in time and money.  The right education is what works for each. It could be a Trade School, an AA Degree, Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degree, or Doctorate. According to Learning Mind, “First and foremost, you should realize that school is worth it. On average, a college graduate with a bachelor’s degree will earn roughly 66% more than someone with only a high school diploma. After you’ve acquired your college degree, you’ll also be much less likely to face unemployment. During your entire life, a bachelor’s degree will enable you to earn roughly more than $1 million more than workers without any postsecondary education.”

There are ancillary benefits too, such as a higher self-esteem, confidence, and overall health and happiness.

Is a Bachelor’s degree for everyone?

No, a 4-year college degree isn’t for everyone and the good news is there are great alternatives. Many people today are choosing to attend trade schools, also known as technical schools or career colleges, to acquire the knowledge and skills they need to land a good job in their field of choice.

There are many benefits to trade schools:

  • A bachelor’s degree typically takes a student 4 or more years to complete verses a trade school, where earning your degree could take 2 years or less
  • High Demand. Most programs that trade schools offer are in high demand in the work force because the schools focus on meeting the needs of business
  • A Trade School can cost much less, but make sure you do the math first.
  • Job Placement. Most trade schools have a high after-school placement rate


Why no Debt?

Today it seems to be acceptable to take on tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in school debt, but you should do everything you can to avoid that path. The reason we go to college is so we can settle down, get a good paying job, raise a family, and perform what is hopefully our passion, 5 days a week. Live the American Dream and be happy, right? Well, debt puts constraints on all of that, adds unnecessary stress on your life, and prevents you from investing early, which significantly slows the process of building wealth. It’s not a good plan to start your career with a negative net worth! You are happier and your attitude on life is more positive when you don’t have a cloud of debt hanging over you daily and you can focus your energy on the things that matter the most.

Why do we need a plan?

According to, “Sprinters launch their careers immediately after college. But Wanderers end up spending roughly five years just to get started, and Stragglers spend most of their 20s wandering aimlessly.” The article goes on to say, “If you aren’t sure about what your next steps will be after college, your education could end up costing you without anything to show for it until you’re well into your 30s.” Yes, you should definitely have a plan!

What can we do to get through college debt free?

The first and foremost thing that you can do, as a student and as a parent is to BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND and DECIDE that you are NOT going to take on Student Loans for College. Just decide, which means to cut off all other possibilities, then create a College Plan to do just that. Be different than everyone and graduate with no debt. It can be done and you can do it! Develop a plan for college using all of the knowledge and resources available and then implement that plan. Hey, it may not be perfect and you may need to make adjustments along the way, but at least you have a plan to graduate debt free!


Never save for college using an Insurance “investment”; not a good investment

Never save for college using Savings Bonds; not a good investment

Never save for college using “Prepaid Tuition”; now only offered in a few states and don’t allow for flexibility. Life is just too unpredictable!

What you can do, as the parent

Congratulations you have decided it is time to have children! So, when do you start investing in their college savings? As soon as possible? Not exactly. Like all other investments the sooner you start the sooner you will reach your goal. However, according to the Baby Steps, this is step #5. What that means is that you will have NO DEBT, you will have a FULLY FUNDED Emergency Fund of 3-6 months (cash) of your basic-needs living expenses, and you will have 15% of your Gross Income going toward retirement, PRIOR to starting your college fund. Funding retirement takes priority over college because you know that you’re going to retire at some time, but you don’t know for sure whether your child is going to attend college.

  • Start EARLY! Don’t wait until they’re a Senior before thinking and planning for college. Begin discussing college as soon as they can understand what it is.
  • Get involved with their homework; daily. Be present. Show them and tell them that it’s important.
  • Constant communication and reinforcement is key. It’s not IF you go to college but “When you go to college….”.
  • Stop taking ALL responsibility for your children. By the time they are old enough to go to college, they may not act like adults, but they are well on their way to adulthood so treat them as such. Set expectations and follow through.
  • Realize that most students who work 20 hours a week can pay for their college AND those that do HAVE A HIGHER GPA!
  • Begin with the end in mind. Begin setting SMART(1) educational goals at an early age. Track them and update yearly, at minimum. Realize that some children are more adapt and motivated about school then others so work with them to set realistic goals for each child.
  • Invest in either a 529(2) plan, Educational Savings Account (ESA)(3), or a ROTH IRA(4) to meet your goals
  • As they grow up talk about college expenses with your children and DECIDE together that you/they are not going to take on Student debt and create the plan together.
  • Realize that developing and implementing the College Plan is a significant project that takes a lot of time and energy and both the Parent and the Student must be engaged. Begin early.
  • As soon as the college is determined, work together to study the college to learn what program support is available and what the requirements are for attending there. Does your school over a PAY-IN-FULL Tuition Discount?
  • Help them with their College Schedule! Don’t expect the college to do this, or your student!
  • While in high school, help them create a monthly budget so both of you know where the money goes every month; schedule monthly budget meetings to hold them accountable throughout high school and college

What you can do, as the Student While in High School

  • Decide and plan early! The earlier you can decide what you want to do with your life the sooner you can begin learning and working toward that goal. Start looking into colleges while a Sophomore and Junior.
  • Work with your Parents to develop a Personal College Plan
  • As a freshman, begin scheduling time with your High School Guidance Counsellor and determine best plan in High School to set you up for success in college. Continue working with your Counsellor throughout your high school education.
  • Take college courses while in High School to minimize attendance time
  • Work part-time after school and full time during the summer. Apply for summer jobs and/or volunteer in a business that can introduce you to a career that’s as close as possible to what you think you want to do for a living. This can help you determine if it’s the right choice and prevent you from changing course in the future, which can add time and cost to your education.
  • Open a savings account, and save as much as possible for college
  • Start your monthly budgeting process to track your money
  • Start at an affordable school and knock out the first two years
  • Apply to and attend In-State or Community Colleges
  • Understand the REQUIREMENTS of your MAJOR; Choose a practical MAJOR that meets your life’s objectives and stick with it!
  • If you know exactly what you want to do, and a trade school is an option vs a 4-year college you may want to evaluate further. A trade school can be a great way to get an education in a specific field. However, the best trade schools for you may not be in your state and could be expensive so spend the time to run the numbers and compare the costs.
  • You MUST do your PART with good grades and SAT and ACT scores. The SAT and ACT can be taken multiple times to improve scores. Use prep courses. GOOD SCORES CAN MEAN REAL SCHOLARSHIP MONEY.
  • Apply for every scholarship that you are eligible for; An estimated $3 Billion goes unclaimed each year! Use apps like to help the process.
  • Complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid); major project; involve CPA if possible; MAKE a COPY of the FORM; START A FILE!

What you can do, as the Student While Attending College

  • Continue your monthly budgeting process to make sure you have more money then month!
  • Be prepared to put your education on hold temporarily if you need to go back to work and save in order to cash-flow your education; don’t go into debt!
  • If you can cash-flow it, graduate ASAP! Finish your degree and start earning!
  • Take Summer Classes; first ensure they are transferrable to a 4-year school
  • Consider on-line courses, when possible, to save windshield time and gas
  • Compare ON vs OFF campus living costs and minimize living expenses
  • Get a Job! Avg college student worked 20 hrs/week they could pay their way through college!
    1. Students who work 10-20 hours a week graduate with higher GPAs!
  • Attend college in your home state for in-state tuition.
  • Manage the COLLEGE LIFESTYLE! Live like a college student, because you are one! Minimize partying, eating out, and other unnecessary expenses that can take you off course and increase the risk of not meeting your goal.
  • You’re going to want a good job after college, right? Start to plan your exit strategy by Networking! Constantly network, build relationships, and look for possible opportunities. As a Senior, take the time to think about places you may want to work and do some research on the company and write down questions you want to ask then contact someone in the department where you may want to work. This will take some effort but be persistent. Ask them about the company, what’s it like to work there, their interviewing and hiring processes. Start building relationships that may turn into opportunities. Meet with them if they are local and are willing to have coffee or lunch to discuss their company.

What to do if you already have debt?

This really depends on your specific situation, but chances are that something needs to change. Contact Vision Financial to discuss your personal financial needs today.


  • SMART goals – SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-oriented. Your goals should be written down and meet each of the requirements. For instance, “I’m going to lose some weight this year” is not a SMART goal. However, “Starting January, 1st 2019, I’m going to lose 15 pounds by March 31st, 2019” meets all of the criteria. Written SMART goals help to keep us motivated, focused, and intentional about the things that mean the most. Keep them where you can see them every day and monitor your progress.
  • 529 Plan – A 529 plan is a tax-advantaged savings plan designed to encourage saving for future education costs. 529 plans, legally known as “qualified tuition plans,” are sponsoredby states, state agencies, or educational institutions and are authorized by Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code.  Reference:
  • Educational Savings Account – A Coverdell education savings account (Coverdell ESA) is a trust or custodial account set up in the United States solely for paying qualified education expenses for the designated beneficiary of the account. This benefit applies not only to qualified higher education expenses, but also to qualified elementary and secondary education expenses.
  • Roth IRA – an individual retirement account allowing a person to set aside after-tax income up to a specified amount each year. Both earnings on the account and withdrawals after age 59½ are tax-free.

References and Good to Read: