• Eric Bowie

Going To College Debt-Free: 8 Things You Must Do

Despite the fact that COVID-19, along with the proliferation of ways to make money online, has opened up a whole new thought process around the need and necessity of a college education, the fact remains that many folks are still seeking college degrees. And there's nothing wrong with that.

The cost of college is still astronomical, and there is no sign on the horizon that this will change anytime soon.

Below is the average costs per semester for room and board in the last 50 years

According to this article put out by the Inside Hire Ed, many colleges and universities have recently shifted their original plans of action, regarding contingency plans for re-opening in the fall of 2020, and have now decided to offer online courses instead of in-person courses.

Now, if they would just put the same energy they've put into these contingency plans, into actually figuring ways to lower costs, we'd all be much better off. Many studies show that the cost of college tuition is continuing to out pace inflation and the increases are seemingly endless.


Data as of Dec. 31, 2019:

Federal student loan borrowers: 42.8 million

Average federal student loan debt: $35,397

Total student loan debt (Private + Federal): $1.64 trillion

Student loan delinquency rate: 11.1 percent

Data as of Dec. 31, 2018 (most recent available):

Graduates with student loan debt: 65 percent

Average student loan debt for class of 2018: $29,200

Sources: Federal Reserve, The Institute for College Access and Success, Dept of Education, MeasureOne

Follow me on Twitter: @smartmoneybro1

I'm not going to bash colleges, which is what seems to be so popular to do nowadays. Instead, I still believe that college is very important, and there are some fantastic pros to getting a college degree.

However, what I will tell you is that you don't have to go deep in debt to get that degree. Whether you are a first time teen college student, or a seasoned professional in your career seeking an advanced degree, there are ways to pay for college without going into debt. I'm not saying don't go to college.

I'm simply saying, go to college the smart way. You don't have to come out of college in loads of debt.

Map provided by Student Loan Planner

In this blog post,

I want to give you 8 things you MUST do if you want to go to college


But first, I want to give you a brief idea of what we were able to do to send my oldest daughter to college debt free. My son, who just completed his Bachelors degree this year, opted to start his college career later after having his own family. My youngest daughter is currently working her way through college, and will graduate in a couple of years debt free, as well.

In 2013 my oldest daughter, Kelsei, was graduating from High School and we had no savings for her college. With a little bit of foresight in mind, we told her early on in her Freshman and Sophomore years in High School, that she could either get scholarships that would help us pay for her to immediately attend an in state 4 year school, or she had to go to a community college the first 2 years.

She decided in her Junior year of High School that she wanted to go to a 4 year in state school. Because that was her choice, she went to work on making sure she had good grades that would qualify her for plenty of scholarships. She was determined to make it work, and with some planning and some vision, she did just that!

What we did:

We pre-planned, talked to our kids early, and threw our additional resources at my daughters college costs. Thankfully, we kept our expenses under management over the years.

We lived off a regular monthly budget, controlled our expenses, and lived below our means for many years leading up to her going off to college. So we simply had to re-tighten our belt, as I worked my side gig selling shoes on eBay, and we did it. Click HERE to check out how I started an eBay business to pay for my daughters college.

The bottom line is I did not want my child starting her life with a mountain of student loans in front of her, or us, so we went to work getting it done debt free. And you can do the exact same thing.

What she did:

She first applied for scholarships in high school. This was her responsibility and she went for it full throttle. She received about $8,000 in scholarships for her freshman year in college.

The scholarships were from various sources, from the local Rotary Club, to coming in 2nd place at the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Annual Debutante Ball, etc. She also received good enough grades in high school, through her ACT Test scores, and her overall class ranking, to get a $5,000 scholarship per academic year, from the college she was attending.

Starting her Junior year in college, she became a Resident Advisor (RA) in her dorm, and this paid her entire room and board for her last two years. She also worked the front desk in the Honors College for her final two years, and worked one weekend a month as a certified nursing assistance (CNA) back in our hometown.

At the end of this blog post, click on the video

"Getting Through College Debt-Free"

from Dave Ramsey

From her Junior year in college, through her Senior year, she worked 3 jobs, managed her yearly scholarships, and we paid the rest with one of my side hustles. She graduated from college in 2017 with her 4 year degree and no debt! She deserves a lot of credit, but we collaborated and got it done.

Currently, our youngest daughter is working very hard to help us pay for her college debt free also. She will graduate in a couple of years without any debt. When your kids are willing to work hard, and understand the importance of not getting into large amounts of debt, it's a blessing.

Start your kids off without debt

Why am I telling you my story? First, I really want to inspire you to realize that it CAN be done. Take the excuses off the board. If we did it for our kids, you can do it too. Secondly, my goal is to encourage you to set a goal, make a plan, and stick to it. Thirdly, there is tremendous value in WORK. If you are willing to work hard to go to college without getting in debt, it's extremely possible.

Finally, we are still paying off student loan debt. Yes, that's right. Our journey to paying off our own student loan debt continues. Hopefully, someone can learn from our story, and it will help someone else's situation. The primary purpose of our journey, is to inspire you in your journey.

We currently owe just over $40,000 in student loan debt.

We've worked feverishly to ensure our kids don't have the same student loan debt that we do. We have a plan to payoff our own student loans, but life gets in the way, and part of that "life" was ensuring our kids weren't strapped with lifelong student loans like us. When we get out of student loan debt in 2 years, I'm looking forward to sharing that triumphant moment with you.

But for now, I want to share 8 things you MUST do to attend college debt free.

1. Be determined to Pay CASH. If you have no money saved for college, you have to get creative, determined, and focused. I get a lot of push back for the four letter word "CASH", but It's possible and it's not out of the question. It's very doable.

My story above, and the other tips below will help illustrate how you can do this. But you have to be real serious about doing this thing debt free in order to do it debt free. The pressure will be on to borrow here and there, take out loans, and do all the things that the system is designed for you to do to go in to debt! You have to be determined NOT to go there.

2. Plan early and Save early. Assess your financial situation, start explaining college tuition to your kids when they are around middle school age, and keep that dialogue going through high school. Tell yourself and your kids what monies you have and what monies you don't have. Don't fool yourself, and don't try to fool them. Be open and honest and upfront.

Figure out your choices based on what money you have, and what money they, or you, can generate. Don't let your 18 year old child dictate how they want to spend your money, and don't let them get overly excited with the thought that you will pay for college, no matter what it cost. That is a mistake and unrealistic.

The sooner you start the conversation and planning, the better off you will be able to execute the plan WITH your kids. Paying for college should be a collaborative effort, if possible.

At the end of this blog post, click on the video

"Getting Through College Debt Free"

from Dave Ramsey

3. Focus on in-state schools. Take all of the expensive out of state schools and private colleges, off the board and out of question. If you have little to no savings for in-state schools, you surely don't have the money to send yourself or your kid to an out of state school.

Be realistic with your child and with yourself, and opt for cheaper in-state alternatives to out of state colleges and private schools. Also, online schools, that eliminate the need to live on campus, are great options also.

Click HERE and let me help you get started on your journey to

attend college debt free!

4. Go through college slower. In other words, make a concious decision to get your degree in 8 years instead of 4. If it means no debt, finishing in 8 years instead of 4 years, won't kill you, hurt you, or mess you up in any kind of way. In the big scheme of things, finishing at the age of 26, as opposed to age 22, won't damage anything significant in the course of your life. Trust me on this!

Taking 2 classes a semester for 8 years, and perhaps a class in the summer, is affordable for most of us reading this. This is a fantastic technique to help you pay for college. This allows you more time to work and earn the extra money, while at the same time cutting the per semester cost of college way down.

Follow me on Twitter: @smartmoneybro1

5. Live on campus and work for student housing. They will usually cover your room and board and this will greatly reduce your cost. If your child is going off to college, you need to make sure they apply for this job as soon as possible. It teaches responsibility, leadership, and work ethic. At the same time, it can usually cut the cost of college in half.

The compensation is amazing and I'm shocked more people don't take advantage of this. If you are an adult student, not living on campus, attempt to get a job working for the college in some way that puts you in position to have them pay a portion of your college tuition.

6. Work work work. Get jobs to pay cash for college. People have been working and going to school forever. You can too. If my daughter can juggle 3 part time jobs in college, so can you. If my youngest daughter can work nearly full time while in college, there is no reason anyone can't.

Where there is a will, we all know there is a way. The beautiful thing about your child when they are away at college, is that they have lots of TIME. Despite what they tell you, if they have time to party, hang with friends, and go to the football and basketball games, then they have time to work!

This idea that full time college students shouldn't be working is a farce.

Don't fall for it.

7. Attend a Community College First. This one should have been at the top of the list. Community Colleges are a fraction of the cost and those 60 credit hours mean the exact same thing as the 60 credit hours at the high priced college you are thinking about attending for the first 2 years. Community Colleges are cheap!

There are programs that will allow your high schooler to go to community colleges for free. Why more people don't take advantage of Community Colleges is completely baffling to me. I cannot understand the fascination with a college that costs 20 times more than its alternative, and yet everyone passes up on the cheaper alternative. As the cost of colleges rise, I do think this is changing.

If you really believe that your freshman and sophomore year in college is more valuable if you go to a 4 year school, then I'm not sure anything in this post can help you. For 99.9% of us, it simply doesn't matter.

Follow me on Twitter: @smartmoneybro1

Of all of my 22 jobs that I've had, I've never had an employer, or anyone for that matter, penalize me for attending a community college for the first 2 years. Click HERE to view my 22 jobs.

If you say, "I want the on campus experience", well, be prepared to pay the costs for that "experience". I'm not interested in paying for on campus experiences, because I know what those experiences often times entail. Be smart and cut college cost in half by attending a local community college. You can thank me later.

Click HERE and let me help you get started on your journey to

attend college debt free!

8. Take advantage of scholarships, grants, and other programs that will help you pay for your schooling. This one sounds obvious, but you would be shocked at how many people do not take advantage of this. There are whole databases dedicated to scholarships everywhere on the internet.

I know a lady who was a single mom, and had no way of paying for her 3 children to attend college. She told me that she was sitting around her home one day when her kids were in middle school, and looking at cereal boxes and all of the things her children consumed. She said she started writing letters to the companies, explaining her story and her desire to send her kids to college.

Incredibly enough those same companies started responding to her letters. Ultimately she used scholarships and grants from those companies to fund her 3 childrens college education, and all 3 graduated from college debt free.

This is a 100% true story and she's actually shared her story in front of large audiences. She is a normal regular person who took a chance, thought outside the box, and went for it. She told me that she made a part time job out of finding money for her kids college education. And it paid off!

If you have to be the one to take on a second and third job, or create your own job, do it. If you or your child have to go slower, attend a community college, or get scholarships, to pay cash or attend debt free, then you can do these things too! It's worth it.

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