By UnigoLet’s face it: College is a major investment in your future. An expensive one, too. True, the rewards usually outweigh the cost, but when faced with high tuition and other fees upfront, many students may wonder how they are going to pay for it all. Sure, student loans are always an option, but as tuition continues to increase so does student debt. Fortunately, creative ways do exist for students to not only decrease their student loan accumulation but also to get some extra dollars that may cover most if not all of their college expenses. Tuition-Free Colleges Yes, indeed, you can actually attend a few colleges and pay nothing. These colleges—many small, religious, or military-based—may require you to work on campus or live in a particular state or region; but, in return, you’ll receive a quality education without student loan debt. For example, at Barclay College—a private Christian university in Kansas—students can attend for free if they live on campus. At the College of the Ozarks in Missouri, full-time students can attend at no cost but are required to work 15 hours per week plus one 40-hour week during the school break each semester. The United States Air Force Academy in Colorado is also no-cost, but students are required to serve in the military. Grants Grants are given out by the federal government, states, and colleges and do not have to be repaid. To be eligible for a grant, you must first report your income on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Most grants are based on financial need, and if you’re eligible, it will be listed on your financial aid award letter sent by your school. Colleges generally consider how much they think your family can afford to pay for college and award money to fill in the gap. Eligibility for grants vary from state to state. Scholarships Scholarships are almost untapped when it comes to planning for college. Gone are the myths when scholarships were only given to straight ‘A’ students of low-income families. Today, students can uncover a variety of scholarships from colleges and private organizations around the country—think: music, art, or business. All sorts of scholarships exist. And you can apply for more than one. Check out all the available scholarships at Unigo. Work-Study Jobs These types of part-time jobs are given to students based on their financial eligibility. Basically, you can earn money while attending college. Work-study jobs pay students directly, but the idea is that you use that money to help pay for college. Work-study jobs can also provide valuable experience related to your course of study, as well. Loans Even if you are eligible and received grants and scholarships, or maybe even have some of your own savings, you still may need to take out student loans to cover the rest of your college tab. Before you consider a private lender, look into federal loans. These loans offer low interest rates and more borrower protection. Keep in mind, you must fill out the FAFSA form to be considered for a federal student loan. Another loan to consider is the PLUS loan, which allows parents to borrow money to help pay for their child’s college. These loans require a credit check and come with a higher interest rate than federal loans. Your financial aid award letter from the school will tell you how much you’re allowed to borrow each year from the government. Loan Forgiveness Programs Once you’ve discovered that you might need student loans, don’t fret: Welcome to the world of loan forgiveness programs. State and federal government offer many loan forgiveness programs to eligible students who are pursuing degrees in certain fields. For example, aspiring elementary and secondary school teachers may receive up to $17,500 toward the repayment of their loans after finishing five years at a qualifying school. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program offered by the federal government will forgive the remaining balance on a student’s Direct Loan after 120 monthly payments have made under an approved repayment plan. Doctors can receive up to $120,000 in medical student loan repayment from NHSC Students to Service Loan Repayment; the students must serve at least three years at an approved NHSC site. Future Nurses and lawyers can also qualify for federal and state loan repayment assistance programs.