College Answers: Paying for College Without Debt or Trust Fund

College Answers: No debt and No Trust Fund

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Question: My daughter is a senior in high school and is preparing to head off to college. We have no money saved for her college expenses and feel like loans are the only option we have. What should we do?

College Answers: You have more options than you realize.

1) Appy Yourself for College Answers

Fill out a FAFSA application – it’s the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – Do this even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for any student aid. FAFSA weighs many different aspects of your finances including your income, your child’s income, the number of kids in college, and parents and students savings.

You’ll need to get a PIN number so you can electronically sign your FAFSA (allow a few days for that to be processed.

You’ll also need your income tax return, bank balances, investment information and your daughter’s bank balances and income tax return.

Allow a couple of days (at 2 or 3 hours per day) to complete the process.

2) Find Scholarships

Visit the Web sites of the colleges your daughter has applied to. Search the financial aid pages to find out what scholarships are offered. You’ll be amazed at the number of options.  Or, talk with someone in the financial aid offices. Be prepared: These representatives usually will tell you about the loans available rather than private- and school-sponsored scholarships. You have to be determined and persistent to get college answers.

FastWeb – Online Searches

Encourage your daughter up an account at They are a great clearinghouse of thousands of scholarships. You fill out a profile—it’s extensive—and they match you up with scholarships and contests that she might be interested in. There is no charge for their services, but they do try to sell you magazines and other college-related services. Avoid the ads and get to the scholarship lists. It’s a numbers game, the more applications she fills out, the better her chance to make some dough.

Slower Offline Searches – But More Money

If you want to take a different approach to finding free money (grants and scholarships, read what we wrote about the big purple book that is full of “old money” in this blog). This money may be harder to find, but it’s just as green and there is far less competition for it.

3) Educate Yourself for College Answers

Read Ben Kaplan’s books How to Go to College Almost for Free (recently revised) and The Scholarship Scouting Report. Both books will empower you/your daughter with college answers to apply for and win scholarships.

 4) School Your Daughter

Encourage your daughter to get her core curriculum at a community college where class sizes are smaller and the cost per credit hour is almost half that of a university.

The Burden of Student Loan Debt

Saddling a young student with $20,000 to $40,000 worth of debt is a disaster waiting to happen, especially if he or she is getting a degree in an occupation such as teaching where the earning potential is limited to $30,000 to $40,000 per year.

Most students don’t comprehend the long-term consequences of borrowing a large amount of money. And if this young student graduates and marries someone who has similar amounts of student loans, it’s a recipe for stress, financial hardship, and sometimes divorce.

Help your daughter think carefully, spend wisely and count the cost. Help her get through school, maybe a little slower, but debt-free. Even if she has to work her way through college each semester, she will learn invaluable lessons about the perseverance, planning and the real cost of education. She’ll take her classes more seriously and will be more likely to truly appreciate her education and find all the college answers she is looking for.

Read more Radical, Out of the Box, Money-Saving College Ideas in this blog series

  1. 6 Ways High Schoolers can Crush College Costs
  2. How to Get Your Student Loans Forgiven
  3. Is There Gold at the End of the Scholarship Rainbow? Hack!
  4. How to Maximize FAFSA and Pell Grant Money!
  5. 10 Out of the Box Ideas for Big Time College Savings
  6. How to Eliminate College Debt
  7. How one kid got a college degree in 22 months for $3100 (you could too)

Be sure to read the comments at the bottom of this page – you’ll be amazed at these families and their college savings!!!!



9 thoughts on “College Answers: Paying for College Without Debt or Trust Fund

  1. Hope Ware

    A few thoughts. Our oldest son is getting ready to transfer to a 4 year private university. He was offered a full tuition scholarship. We homeschooled him for his entire K-12 education. So, some of these hints are a result of being able to tailor his education to his passions in life. Our children have known from a very young age that we would not pay for their college education. My son started out at a local 2 year college and earned a 3.895 GPA. After 3 semesters, he applied for a full tuition scholarship at the 4 year university of his dreams.

    During high school:
    1. Scholarship committees are looking for students who have sone unusual things. Did your child raise a boatload of money for charity? Was he/she inspired because you had a friend or family member who dealt with difficult circumstances? The committee wants to know not only what they did, but also WHY they did it! Be sure to track the total number of hours that they dedicate to local charities. If it is a LOT of time, you can add that to their scholarship application.
    2. Let your child pursue their passions early in life. Our son loved history. So, when he was 15 he contacted our local historical society and introduced himself. He was offered a year long internship. He had a blast, learned a lot of important skills, and met some local leaders. He still does historical reenactments when he has the time.
    3. Let them enter competitions early in their high school career. Our son is a gifted writer and won a state-wide scholarship when he was 16. There are a lot of scholarships and contests in which your student can not only earn awards and money prizes, but this looks awfully good on their transcript!

    These tips are for if your child gets invited to a scholarship competition day at the college: These are generally for major scholarships.

    1. Scholarship committees are looking a “can do” attitude and a “team player”. When the scholarship involves a competition day, groups of applicants are sometimes put into a group discussion situation. The faculty wants to see which students not only take a lead in the dissuasion, but also listen to the viewpoints of others respectfully and then respond in a way that furthers the discussion.
    2. Your one-on-one interview will ask about your students future goals. Be sure that they have a solid answer for their “game plan for the future.” They asked my son about his three top interests. He shared with them this top 3 interests, WHY those things were important to him, and how he planned to use those interests in his future avocation.
    3. Scope out the internet for questions that are often asked during scholarship competitions. Have your student write out answers to these questions and practice giving them succinctly and fluently so that he/she is ready well before the day of the scholarship competition.
    4. Dress for success. A scholarship day at the college is not the time for flip-flops and shorts. Truly! You don’t need a tux, but dress like you are a student who is serious about college. My son wore a suit and bow tie. But, then again he dresses like that all the time. LOL!

    1. Steve Economides Post author

      HOPE!!! Love what your son has accomplished with scholarships and college admission. His persistence is an inspiration and proves that the more you apply and participate, the better your chances are for winning big-time scholarship money. You must be so proud. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Alexis @FITnancials

    I don’t think enough students are educated on student loans. Many take out the full amount possible to pay for vacations, shopping, and other excursions that aren’t used for the loans at all, only to have them pay a lot more down the road.

    1. Steve Economides Post author

      Alexis – you are so right about students being uneducated about student loans. Who is responsible for educating them? The schools should try, but if they do a “good job,” teaching about the dangers of over-borrowing, perhaps the students won’t enroll in their school. It’s not in the best interest of schools to teach students how to minimize borrowing. Truly, parents are the ones who need to shoulder the responsibility to teach their children about finances and the dangers of loans. But with so many parents still paying off their own student loans how can they teach their kids. It’s a vicious circle.

  3. Melanie

    My husband and his family are living proof of this. His parents immigrated from Cuba with no money and worked their way through college with no debt. They had 13 kids and didn’t pay one dime toward their education. My husband, who was a middle child, said it was pretty well-known from a young age that they would have to work hard if they wanted an education. Out of 13 kids, all but two have advanced degrees and no school debt. My husband worked his way through two degrees with no school loans, and when he finished he had $15,000 in the bank.

    (My parents paid for my education… I feel like a schlump next my hubby’s siblings.)

    The key is, let your kids know early on what is expected of them. If they want that education badly enough, they will work for it. If you hand it to them on a silver platter, you kill their drive and passion.

    You can read more about my husband’s family here… it’s a hoot:

    1. Steve Economides Post author

      Wow – what an awesome family! Your kids will definitely benefit from your husband’s determination!

  4. Ali Bailey

    Thanks, Steve!

    We are very proud of them. We need more people in the world that have learned the lessons what used to be considered common sense. 🙂


  5. Ali Bailey

    We had managed to save up some for each child’s college, but not nearly enough. Community college gave our children an excellent start on their educations. Living at home saved over $10,000 a year in dorm fees and eating plans.They did well on their studies, got into the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, and received several offers for transfer scholarships. When they went to the four year school, they had roommates and worked. Their scholarships paid their tuition and books. We paid their rent, and their wages went to living expenses. We have two children and the youngest daughter is a senior in college. The experience that my older daughter got while working her way through led to her post-graduation job. In a tough job market, college alone is not enough. Frugal living, coupled with the willingness to work hard at both her job and her education paved the way to success for her.

    We have family members that chose a different path. They have HUGE student loans, of $40,000 or more, and have not found post-college employment. That kind of debt hampers your future and should be avoided as much as possible. It is so unnecessary. College costs have been rising faster than inflation for over twenty-five years now. College is a product, like any other purchase you make. When consumers get savvy to this and start holding colleges accountable by voting with their feet, perhaps there will be some cost contols put into place.

    1. Steve Economides Post author

      Your story is awesome! You’ve given your children an incredible gift—self sufficiency! They know that with some careful planning, simple living and elbow grease, they can accomplish what many think impossible.

      It will be wonderful to see where they are financially and employment wise 10 years from now. They’re going to be leaders among their peers.

      You should be proud of them!


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