By now you've probably heard the numbers. 

You should have (somehow) started saving for college at least three months before you were born. You need to have $1.653 million in the bank by the time you're a sophomore in high school or you'll never be able to afford tuition at a college or university. Student loans will bury you in debt for the rest of your natural life, or at least for 100 years.

 

Okay, maybe those numbers are a little over the top. And they are obviously not true, but these are:

  • Nearly seven out of every 10 college graduates have student loan debt (according to the Institute for College Access & Success).
  • In 2014, the average amount of student loan debt for graduates was nearly $30,000. 
  • $30,000 of debt could cost you more than $40,000 to repay (according to FinAid.com).  

Ouch. 

There is no doubt that taking on a lot of loans to pay for college can turn into a pain in your pocketbook once you graduate. But that doesn't mean pursing your degree is a bad investment, and it doesn't mean you need to panic if (like most people) you haven't saved enough (or any) money to pay for college. 

In fact, earning a college degree remains the best way to improve your job prospects, land a higher-paying job than people without degrees and earn more than 75 percent more money over the course of your lifetime than high school graduates (according to a study by the Center on Education and the Workforce). 

Now those are some numbers that feel pretty good to look at—especially if you work hard to limit the amount of student loans you take by following these five smart ways to pay for your college education:

Apply for Grants

Everyone has a story, and your story just might get you some free money to help pay for college. 

If you have faced and overcome obstacles in your life, you might be eligible for a federal or state grant. But you'll never know if you never apply. 

If you are a military veteran, going back to school to earn a master's degree or postbaccalaureate certification or if your parents (or the people who raised you) don't make tons of dough, you just might qualify for a grant. And grants don't have to be paid back, so take the time and apply today!

Apply for Scholarships

Scholarships are like grants in that they do not need to be re-paid. Unlike grants, however, they are awarded based on merit rather than need. This means you can get a scholarship (or two or three or more) even if you don't qualify for a grant. 

All you have to do is find a scholarship that rewards people like you and apply. And there is a good chance that there's at least one scholarship you will be eligible to apply for, especially if you were an excellent student in high school; have an interest in studying to become an auto mechanic, surgical tech or, well, anything really; or became a mother or father earlier than most. 

There are thousands of scholarships available. So fire up your search engine and find a few that might be right for you. 

"Volunteer" Your Way through School

It might sound counter-intuitive, but it is possible to "volunteer" your way through a good portion of your college career. 

Groups like Americorps, the Peace Corp, National Health Services Corps and ROTC offer money to pay your college tuition in exchange for commitments to serve with their organizations during school and after you graduate. 

These programs are actually great ways to earn money for school, meet a lot of interesting people and actually gain valuable experience that can help you in your professional life. 

Work Your Way through School

Believe it or not, it is still possible to work your way through college. 

Sure, it might take a little longer. Sure, you will have to become a master at managing your time and schedule. And sure, you might not have as much time to study and participate in extracurricular activities. 

But it can be worth it. 

Working your way through school is a great way to graduate with less student loan debt. And while it might seem like you are working harder than your classmates while you're in school, you will be better positioned to reap the rewards of your hard work after you graduate. 

Big turn around in my life. There's so many people at my university pushing me and motivating me to do so good every...

Posted by Casey Woodson on Monday, February 2, 2015

Graduate Faster

Let's face it, the less time you spend in college, the less it's usually going to cost you in the long run. One great way to limit student loan debt is to attend a college that lets you earn your degree in 2.5 years or less. ECPI University is one of those colleges. Contact ECPI University today to learn more about graduating from college quicker and maybe even with less debt. It could be the Best Decision You Ever Make!

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