No loans: How to graduate from college debt free

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  • Rural sport fan DUCHESNE, UT
    May 10, 2014 11:50 p.m.

    I used the GI bill. The result was, I was 4 years older than classmates, more mature, more experienced, more disciplined. While in school I worked mornings, took classes in the afternoon, then worked evenings, did homework at night.

    I made more money my senior year than my first job payed annually in the first two years.

    You can do it. You just need to cut back on the discretionary spending.

  • Screwdriver Casa Grande, AZ
    May 9, 2014 4:47 p.m.

    That's not a secret. Have rich parents and you will graduate debt free. I feel we knew that.

    Now for the millions of kids that go to STATE colleges and never can finish for lack of money?

  • terra nova Park City, UT
    May 4, 2014 10:09 p.m.

    Our approach has been a bit different. We urge our kids to pay their own way. If we lend them anything to help with their education they are obligated to pay it back. But not to us. They pay it back to a fund that will be used for their younger brothers and sisters. And then for their own children. It becomes a kind of personal perpetual education program.

    The irony? Knowing they had to pay it back, they didn't want to take the money unless it was absolutely necessary. So far, two have graduated debt-free. Two more are in the mill and have no debt thus far. They work, sometimes they got scholarships, sometimes they didn't. But they have been largely self-sufficient.

    One of the recent college graduates has a job that is offering to pay for his Ph.D.

    It is possible to graduate debt-free. Not easy, but possible.

  • RBB Sandy, UT
    May 4, 2014 11:53 a.m.


    I have to agree with Max. I went to Weber because it was my best scholarship. Each of my professors but 1 was a full PhD. and, most importantly, they loved to teach. When I had a question about something in Physics or Chemistry, I could literally walk up to the professor's office and talk it through. Occasionally I had to wait 5-10 minutes if someone else got there first.

    In contrast, my friends at the U were all being taught by grad students and had to get an appointment to see the TA, let alone the professor. The graduate school test scores in my area were pretty similar to those at the U even though Weber was not a weed-out program and had a much higher percentage of kids to started in the program take the test.

    If your kid is an all-star who is going to be doing undergraduate research and looking at a big name grad school, the U is the place to go. For most students, however, Weber, UVU or SUU are just as good, if not better, because the professors are there to teach.

  • statman Lehi, UT
    May 4, 2014 1:46 a.m.

    Netjes - therein lies the irony of AP "credits" - the smart kids who take them in HS can't use them to graduate with smart-kids-majors in college. Motivated high schooler thinking about medical school? Don't bother with taking AP chemistry, math, physics, or bio. You'll have to retake them all to graduate with a science major, and if you're smart enough to think you can pull off a good score on the MCAT while being a Sociology major, think again. AP courses don't count as prereqs toward medical school either.

    The smart kids most likely to take AP courses are the ones who are the least likely to benefit from them...

  • statman Lehi, UT
    May 2, 2014 10:59 p.m.

    UT has one of the cheapest higher education systems in the country. In many states, even with in-state tuition, you're pushing $100K for attendance costs.
    Cost of annual tuition for instate students at the following schools:
    Chapel Hill - $8500 tuition.
    UT Austin - $10,000+ tuition (depends on major)
    SUNY Albany - $8500 tuition
    UVA - $10,000 tuition
    Michigan - $14,000 tuition
    Ohio State - $10,000 tuition
    Illinois - $15,000 - $20,000 tuition (depends on major)
    Wisconsin - $11,000 tuition
    Minnesota - $12,000 tuition
    Tennessee - $11,000 tuition
    Cal - $13,000 tuition
    Oregon - $10,000 tuition
    Washington - $12,000 tuition
    Oklahoma - $9,000 tuition
    UCONN - $12,000

    Fully-loaded, in most states, you're looking at $100K for a 4 year college program - yes even at lowly University of Tennessee...

  • Yorgus Manila, UT
    May 2, 2014 2:34 p.m.

    I graduated with a BS with no debt. I worked on an MA at BYU, again, no debt, although I gained a wife (who had no student loans either). Then went to another school for a PhD, and while I did not finish the PhD, I incurred no debt, although we had three kids along the way. Then went back for an MEd, which I finished in 2006 (at much higher rates of tuition than my earlier studies), with no debt. Two of my three children have graduated from college, with no debt at the BS/BA level. Only one child took on student debt, but that was to go to medical school, and while there, I paid for her living expenses to keep her debts to a minimum. As a physician, her income is sufficient to pay off her loans.

    I watched all of my siblings and their spouses struggle with student loans. I am glad to have been able to avoid the same struggle.

  • bluebullet94 ,
    May 2, 2014 1:29 p.m.

    I graduated without student loans because of 24 credits earned from AP classes and language credits earned, I worked part time making about $12-14k/year and got some help from my grandparents as well (about $2000/year). I did take out student loans (about $20k) to get my master's degree because I figured the ROI would be worth it. I graduated with my master's degree in 2005 and was making about $35k/yr and my income has tripled since that time so I would say that my $20k investment paid off handsomely! Plus my student loan interest rate is only .065% so that is some cheap money! Education can certainly be worth it, but every student needs to look at the ROI of the cost of tuition and loans to determine if, when, and where to go to college!

  • Abefroman22 Farmington, UT
    May 2, 2014 8:57 a.m.

    For people to say that this can't be done is ridiculous. I graduated with my graduate degree last year and have never had a dollar in student loans. I also have a wife, child, and a mortgage. It is very doable, but many times kids do not want to put in the effort to get it done. I worked full-time, went to school full-time and made financial sacrifices to be able to do this. To be fair, I did have my first year of my undergrad for free on a basketball scholarship, but after that I paid for it all on my own. It is difficult, and it takes a little self-control.

  • Max Upstate, NY
    May 2, 2014 7:47 a.m.

    There have been studies done on the correlation between teaching excellence and research. They are two quite separate skill sets. One may be a brilliant researcher but can't say boo to the person next to him/her let alone teach a class. This is not to say that a person can't have both skill sets, but having one does not imply the other. And you most certainly can get through a doctoral problem (and it happens all the time) and be a lousy communicator and teacher. There is nothing about writing a dissertation that indicates the ability to teach a classroom full of students. Some of the worst teachers I ever had were brilliant in their fields. They just didn't have the interpersonal skills that allowed them to be effective in the classroom. If you have been fortunate so far to have professors with both skill sets, you are to be congratulated. You have been fortunate indeed.

  • Chris*B Wasatch, UT
    May 2, 2014 12:29 a.m.

    Max, forgive me for my ignorance, I didn't realize that all of my professors were graduate assistants.... oh wait, they weren't. Of the three years I have been at Uni, I have had a total of 3 graduate assistants teach my courses. That's less than 10%. And you might be surprised that there actually is a correlation between researching and communicating. Individuals who have the ability to research and publish well, also have the ability to communicate and teach well. You don't get through a Doctorate program unless you have the ability to communicate. That is what publishing is, taking learned information, and communicating it to others via articles and books.

  • Ed Grady Idaho Falls, ID
    May 1, 2014 10:05 p.m.

    I've helped four kids through college, if Michael De Groote can top that, I'll defer to his superior experience; otherwise, I'll ignore him the same way I ignore Dave Ramsey.

  • Bob Pomeroy Bisbee, AZ
    May 1, 2014 10:01 p.m.

    I did it. So can you. Courage in the face of adversity. Believe in yourself. Work is zen.

  • netjes Grand Rapids, MI
    May 1, 2014 6:47 p.m.

    My daughter took a lot of AP classes in high school and entered BYU as a sophomore. Unfortunately, almost nothing counts towards her major, and she still needs to put in eight semesters.

  • Max Upstate, NY
    May 1, 2014 6:23 p.m.

    Sorry Chris B, you are demonstrating your ignorance. University professors are hired for their research skills and the ability to publish. There is no correlation between the ability to research/publish and the ability to teach/communicate. Moreover, you are not being taught by senior professors in your first two years at a university. You are being taught by graduate assistants, many of whom are not only learning their subject matter and how to teach, but are also still learning English. If you are taught by a Professor, you are taught by a newby. Yes, there are reasons why community college students do better in their second two years at the university than those who started out there. They were taught by teaching professors instead of grad assistants.

  • Oatmeal Woods Cross, UT
    May 1, 2014 5:36 p.m.

    Utah high school students who are willing to work hard, can earn an AS degree BEFORE they even graduate from high school by taking AP and CE classes. It really is NOT that difficult. Such students will have a couple hours of homework per night. But it makes the high school experience worth the time. Google "Utah New Century Scholarship" and find out how this pays for the next two years. It has nothing to do with being gifted. It has everything to do with work ethic.

  • Chris*B Wasatch, UT
    May 1, 2014 5:29 p.m.

    I'm sorry, but there is no way the professors at community colleges are "better" than at universities. The learning environment may be better with the smaller class sizes, but what is being taught and how it is being taught is not going to be the same quality. There is a reason professors at most community colleges are paid less, they are not as good. It is simple supply and demand.

  • Max Upstate, NY
    May 1, 2014 4:55 p.m.

    Black Attack,

    You are correct! The really smart way to go to college is to start at a community college. You will have better professors (as opposed to graduate students or professors just starting out or professors who resent having to be diverted away from their research) and you will save a ton. Also, there are studies that have been done by some campuses of the State University of New York that indicate that students who started out at community colleges do better in their final two years than students who were there the full four years. Community colleges are a very wise choice.

  • JHP Okemos, MI
    May 1, 2014 3:51 p.m.

    Best way to leave college debt free: be responsible in high school, get really good grades, score well on the ACT/SAT, get a full-ride scholarship, or close to it.

    This method also works for graduate school. Anyone with decent grades can get a scholarship, even if it's only 25-50% tuition, if they don't insist on going to the best schools.

  • LizzieLou SLC, UT
    May 1, 2014 3:41 p.m.

    For undergrad, there are tons of scholarships available. I worked hard in school and applied for nearly every scholarship I could find and ended up with quite a few. I saved up money before college and I worked part-time through college and worked on the breaks from school. At one time, I even worked 3 jobs. You can still do it and not have parents' help or sacrifice good grades just to be debt free. Now master's programs...that's a different story.

  • Michael De Groote
    May 1, 2014 1:07 p.m.

    It doesn't take a "Rich Daddy" to help a kid go to an in-state college.

  • blackattack Orem, UT
    May 1, 2014 12:34 p.m.

    I agree with many of the comments on here. While a student, you certainly don't need a new TV, a new gaming system, a new car, the best phone, subscriptions to entertainment, eat out, and not have a job at the same time. And work experience beats out which school you went to and your GPA in most fields.

    By the time my kids reach college-age, I think the college education system will be radically different (or at least, I hope so). I think it is unfair to kids, no matter what socio-economic status they are in, to have to pay for the inefficiencies of universities. Inflationary costs are to be expected, but the rate that tuition increases each year is wrong and that is why so many kids live with their parents and graduate with so much debt now.

    If things remain the same in 14 years, I would tell my kids to go to a community college, get as many credits as they can, transfer to a state school or BYU, and graduate. If you can make it debt-free, great job. If not, pay it off ASAP.

  • TOO Sanpete, UT
    May 1, 2014 12:20 p.m.

    Here's how I did/am doing it.

    Got a scholarship to Snow College for two years.
    Paid one extra semester to take some GPA builders (one semester was $1,200).
    Got into my program at Weber State.
    Applied for a department scholarship and got $1,000.
    Graduated with honors in all of my classes from beginning to end.

    I worked hard, spent what I needed and saved like a mad man. I don't have a smart phone, new car, or even for that--a great looking car. My wife has worked hard as well.

    Many people think that a college like Snow is dumb. However, the biggest class I had was 25 students. I was able to go to my teachers' offices and ask for any additional insight and not count on "tutors". I knew what they expected and I tried my best to do it.
    Any school in Utah is double if not more in cost. And do you think I got half the education than the people who went to Universities right off? Absolutely not. I think I got better because of my class sizes and personal time that a university would not have given me.

  • Ed Grady Idaho Falls, ID
    May 1, 2014 11:53 a.m.

    "How to graduate from college debt-free"

    Now I get it - you just have to win the prestigious "Rich Daddy Scholarship."

  • Michael De Groote
    May 1, 2014 11:09 a.m.

    Ed Grady says this could never work at Boise State.

    According to one online calculator, these are the current costs to attend Boise State University:
    Total One Academic Year Cost
    Idaho Residents: $14,564
    Non Idaho Residents: $26,004

    Notice first, how much a person saves by going instate. But, let's take a look at the cost itemization a moment.

    Cost Itemization
    Tution for Idaho Residents: $3,991
    Tution for non-Idaho Residents: $15,431
    Room and Board or estimated off campus living expense: $7,438
    Books and Supplies: $1,242
    Other Fees: $1,893

    Tuition is $3,991 ?
    Sounds affordable for just about anybody. If somebody can live at home, that will eat up a lot of the other expenses. Books and Supplies? There are plenty of ways to save there as well. Are there no community colleges in Idaho to start out at?

  • Michael De Groote
    May 1, 2014 10:58 a.m.

    Aggie5 is correct. Rachel Cruze did graduate from college with her family's help. This is not "misleading," however, because having help from parents is a major way that some people can graduate from college with no loans.

    Also, the amount that she was given was not beyond the means of many families. Saving early for college is one way to help pay for college. But it is not the only way, and the article mentions several other ways people can go to college without debt.

    But, as the article also says, even if a person can't quite go to college without debt, following the advice given will make the amount of loans much, much smaller.

    As many comments are already coming in, it is possible to do this. Rachel Cruze was indeed helped, but she also had to adjust her own goals to do it.

    My advice is to read the whole article and see what applies to your own situation. I couldn't cover everything when I wrote it, but it is a good starting point.

  • Brave Sir Robin San Diego, CA
    May 1, 2014 10:20 a.m.

    I got through college with zero debt. Here's how I did it:

    1. Worked two jobs at the same time, one of them always at the university so I could get tuition breaks.
    2. Since I was always at school, at work, or studying, I didn't have a lot of time to waste money on other pursuits.
    3. When I did have free time, I did things that were free (going to the gym that was covered by my tuition, playing intramural sports, etc.).
    4. I didn't eat out.
    5. I never ever under any circumstances took a class I didn't need to graduate.

  • JamesW Fresno, CA
    May 1, 2014 9:38 a.m.

    If my dad were to pay for my school, I would be debt free too. Just saying. There are things 'worth' going into debt for and things that aren't. School is one of those things that is ultimately worth it.

    The average monthly payment on a $30,000 student loan after the student graduated is about $300 a month for 10 years. Yes the time value of money adds up. Yes there are other things that I could spend that money on, but at the same time, I live in Fresno, Ca, in a single income house with a baby, working an average middle class job, paying $1K a month in rent, and we make it. Are there sacrifices, yes. Like we only have 1 car not 2. So I ride a bike 7 miles to work each day. Do we have a flashy tv? Iphones? No. But that's okay.

    Ultimately, if a college graduate can't like on an average income, with a minimal $300 a month student loan payment, then that individual needs to look at how they are living their life. Or they should have gotten a degree in something with a greater ROI.

    Just my two cents.

  • Shamal Happy Valley, UT
    May 1, 2014 9:36 a.m.

    The National Guard is an excellent way to have school, room and board payed for and will most certainly set you apart from your classmates. No matter what field you choose.

  • Soreasan Bountiful, UT
    May 1, 2014 9:08 a.m.

    I'm a college student with no student loans but about 2-3 years left of college. I have an Associate of Science in General Studies and am working on a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science.

    Graduating without debt is hard and in some cases honestly it may be better to just take out student loans. I've worked varying amounts of hours while attending college ranging from as few as 9 hours per week to as many as 38 all while attending school full-time(12-17 credit hours for me which is the same as a 36-51 hour workload). Working while attending school is hard and I don't really get to have a social life. Additionally my grades are lower than my counterparts who are focusing on school. People who take student loans out can focus on college 100% while someone like me who is working and attending school can honestly only devote about 1/3-1/2 my time MAX to college. Additionally it takes a lot longer to graduate from school. I'll be around 27-28 years old when I graduate college. There are pros and cons to graduating with or without student loans.

  • Ed Grady Idaho Falls, ID
    May 1, 2014 8:50 a.m.

    More Dave Ramsey pie-in-the-sky fantasy talk. The cost for a Idaho resident to attend an Idaho university is estimated to be $20,346 per year (Boise State.) Name a part-time job and summer job that pays a college kid 20 grand a year. Sorry, but not everybody can fight fires in the summer. Oh sure, a kid can always sell DirecTV and pest control door-to-door and make a fortune, right. Granted, if you're a whiz kid, you can get scholarships to help. If you're poor, you can get Pell Grants to help. If you're a middle-class kid of average intelligence, you get student loans or you don't go to college. If a middle-class kid wants a college education, he/she needs student loans regardless of what out-of-touch "financial experts" say.

  • Hutterite American Fork, UT
    May 1, 2014 8:42 a.m.

    Get a trade. It's that simple.

  • Max Upstate, NY
    May 1, 2014 7:46 a.m.

    Everything Rachel Cruz says about college and debt is exactly right. However, for the Ramsey's to hold her up as an inspiring example of how it is possible to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and graduate with no debt (and I have heard them do this)... well they ought to be embarrassed. Yes, when you have a multi-millionaire father, graduating without debt should not be a problem. Again, the Ramsey's advice is very good and Rachel apparently did live within the limits set by her parents, but this is hardly a story of "I did it so you can too".

  • Aggie5 Kuna, ID
    May 1, 2014 6:22 a.m.

    This article seems to be misleading. She graduated from college debt free, cause her dad for it. If I read this right, this is a pretty unusable read.