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It is entirely possible to get through college debt-free. 

It sounds crazy to the point of being almost impossible. Today’s culture does not really promote this sort of thinking. Instead, it encourages students to go to whatever school they want, take out loans to pay for it and then pay all that money back later. 

According to, “Student loan debt in 2020 is now about $1.56 trillion,” and “there are 45 million borrowers who collectively owe nearly $1.6 trillion in student loan debt in the U.S.” (2020). This count includes current students and adults who have already graduated from a college or university.

Those numbers seem depressing, and they continue to rise each year with every group of new students that goes off to college. There is good news, however: It is possible to change those numbers. It will take a lot of effort, work, dedication and perseverance, but the end result will be worth it.

There are many ways that a student can get through school debt-free. One of the biggest is to save money. Students can do this by not spending money on unnecessary things, like the latest phone, video game or clothing item. They can start finding little ways to save a penny here and a dollar there. It all adds up. 

Students can also save themselves a lot of money by taking PSEO (Post-Secondary Enrollment Option) classes in high school. These are classes that count for both high school and college credit. In Minnesota, these are free college classes and save the student both time and money. Some dedicated students have managed to get their Associates Degree for free at the same time they graduated high school—just from taking PSEO classes. 

Applying for scholarships is another way to reduce the college bill. There are hundreds of different websites, organizations and foundations that offer scholarships to both high school and college students. There are scholarships for some strange things like shoe size, height and even duck calls.

Another way to accumulate money is working and/or taking a gap year. While in school, students can find a job on-campus or close to campus. They can work in the mornings or evenings for a couple hours. Weekends are also a key time to get work hours in. Although it may be fun in the moment to have weekends off, it is also a lot of hours that could be used making money. 

It might even be necessary to take a semester, or even a year, off school and work like crazy to build up enough money to pay for a semester or two. Paying for an entire semester or school year without owing anything can be very rewarding.

Residing in-state, living at home, taking online classes—depending on the school’s tuition plans—and commuting are also ways to save money on college, depending on the credit. Each has their pros and cons that should be considered when making the decision about where to go to college. 

It may appear daunting and even impossible, but students should not give up. It may not seem like fun, and it will be hard at points, but it is important to keep the end goal in mind.