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My plan for a debt-free college degree

You can substantially reduce the cost of a college education if you plan ahead.

By MSN Money Partner Feb 20, 2012 11:04AM

This post from Chase Miller originally appeared as a guest post at partner blog Get Rich Slowly.

 

Get Rich Slowly on MSN Money"Where are you going to college?"

 

"What are you going to major in?"

 

"What kind of career do you want?"

 

As senior year flies by like a speeding car, there are certain questions I have been asked countless times by friends, family members and co-workers. These questions are probably the same for every high school senior: What's next? What do I want to do with my life?

 

Now, this isn't a bad thing. In fact, I think it's rather positive. Deciding what you will do after high school is part of growing up and setting a course. But with the average cost of attending a private university in the U.S. at a staggering $28,500 per year, not including room and board, the goal of attending a four-year college without debt seems unattainable to most people.

 

What's even more discouraging is that with these price increases, many are going to community college. Classes are now overcrowded and difficult to enroll in. (Post continues below.)

My plan for a debt-free education
I have always had a goal of staying debt-free through college, which is why I've had a formula for several years. Below are some things I have done to cut the cost of college for myself. They are easy steps other students can replicate no matter where they live.

  • The first thing I did was to take college classes when I was in junior high. They were all online, and I did them in addition to my regular junior high classes. Back then I took them to prove to myself that I could do it, but now I realize how beneficial they were. When I graduate high school this spring, I will have 32 college credits, which equals a full year of college. What's amazing is that these credits didn't cost me a dime, as junior high and high school students can take college courses for free in California. Talk about a money saver -- this will allow me to graduate an entire year early.
  • I plan to go straight to a four-year university, but with a few sacrifices. Having the college experience of living in the dorms and making lifelong friends is something I have always wanted to experience, so I plan to make cuts in other areas. My plan is to go to a local four-year university and only live on campus the first year. The second and third year I will live at home and commute to classes and school activities. This will allow me to make friends and experience living in a dorm for the first year. I've estimated that doing this will save more than $20,000 in room and board expenses.
  • While in college, I will be without a car. While this will be a difficult adjustment, in reality a car is not a necessity, and I can always get a ride from a friend and use public transportation to get to class when I'm not living on campus. I should save about $24,000 by living without a car.

My total savings from taking these three steps comes to an estimated $81,000. Not everyone can or should follow my exact plan, but when you get motivated and creative I think most anyone can find a way to get a college degree without taking out student loans.

 

Note from April Dykman at Get Rich Slowly: Chase's guest post submission caught my eye because he's in high school and he's actively planning his financial future. That's impressive -- I wish I had started at his age. I also want to stress that Chase and any other financially savvy high school kids who are reading Get Rich Slowly in their leisure time need to apply for scholarships. One of our readers shared how she was able to attend George Washington University and pay just $4,000 out-of-pocket for a $160,000 education.

 

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