By tamaraAs student loan debt continues to climb, and more students face the challenge of paying for their degrees, our country’s leaders continue to look for creative programs to help more students gain access to college. In Florida, for example, Governor Rick Scott issued a challenge to the state’s college administrators to lower the cost of a bachelor’s degree to under $10,000 over four years. Although only a handful of colleges accepted the challenge, at least it’s a start. Unfortunately, students may not see any dramatic decreases in tuition anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other resources that can significantly reduce, or even eliminate, a student’s overall college debt. For those who want to attend college without going broke, these programs may just fit the bill. 1. Tuition-Free Colleges Believe it or not, there are a few college campuses that offer students the chance to attend college tuition-free in exchange for work or other stipulations. For example, students who reside in one of the 108 counties located in Central Appalachia are guaranteed free tuition at Alice Lloyd College. At Berea College, every student admitted receives a four-year scholarship to cover the cost of tuition (valued at $100,000). Students can also enter work agreements to help cover housing and other fees. Nearly 25 percent of Berea’s students graduate completely debt-free. Although many of the colleges that offer free tuition are small, religious-affiliated, or military-based, students can still receive a quality education without taking on serious student loan debt. 2. Loan Forgiveness Programs Students who are seeking degrees in certain fields may be eligible for one of several loan forgiveness programs offered through their state or the federal government. Students who plan to teach in an elementary or secondary school may be able to receive up to $17,500 toward the repayment of their loans after completing five years of service at a qualifying school. The federal government also has a program for those who enter public service and make 120 consecutive payments on their student loans. Nurses can receive up to 60 percent of their loans paid off after just two years of service and can qualify for an additional 25 percent if they stay for an optional third year at a qualifying facility. Even future lawyers can benefit from a loan repayment assistance program. Although students will still have to take out loans to attend school, they can rest easy knowing they have the ability to have a good portion of that debt erased by entering into a loan forgiveness program. 3. Retro Tuition Offer Wouldn’t it be great if students could attend college today at the 1972 tuition rate? It’s possible for those who plan to attend Lipscomb University. The college recently announced a new program that allows students who were previously enrolled (or enrolled at another accredited college) between 1972 and 2008 to restart their studies at the published tuition rate from the year they first enrolled. Those who attended between 1972 and 1974 can save 92.5 percent off their tuition bill. That’s a huge savings! 4. Scholarships Students often overlook scholarships when planning for college. Most neglect to apply or believe old scholarship myths (such as only straight ‘A’ students or those from low-income families will qualify). Many students also feel that searching for scholarships is a waste of time. The idea that some students easily disregard the opportunity to earn ‘free money’ for college still perplexes me. Between the abundance of free online resources and help from their guidance counselors, students really have no excuse for not putting in a little sweat equity. Even winning one award will help reduce a student’s overall college debt. Although these are just a few of the ways students can reduce their overall student loan debt at graduation, there may be other options. Students should take the time to speak with their parents, guidance counselors, and college financial aid officers to see what other resources may be available.