Student Loans: A Necessary Evil?

Photo: Building on the campus of the University of Iowa.  Photo taken November 2014, from my iPhone.

Recently, I have been hearing lots of talk about student loans in politics.  I have just got out from under my student loans, and I don't believe that anyone should ever default on their student loans.  I used teacher loan forgiveness to help me pay off my student debt, but was all of this really necessary?  Are student loans the only way to get through college?

Simply, NO.

With more and more understanding of college and how we pay for it, I do believe that a student can attend college without taking out any student loans.  Student loans are not necessary evils.  People can get through college by working hard and being creative.

I have heard examples of people who got through college without any student loans.  So, it is possible.  In all of these stories, people got through college in different ways.  What are some ways to get through college debt free?

Parents Pay for It

This is the noble thing that most parents try to do for their kids.  They want to help them make it to the next step of their lives and they have saved up for this expense.  Not every kid has this option, and it does not give anyone a reason be bitter.  I think it’s great when students can make it through college debt free no matter the way.

Get some Scholarships

Scholarships are a great way to pay for college.  There are a lot of scholarships out there for the taking.  You just have to apply.  I once heard of somebody applying for 100 scholarships over the summer.  This person only received 20 of the scholarships, but the money was more than enough to pay for a full year of school.  You will not earn all of the scholarships that you apply for, but you got to take a chance and be willing to fill out multiple scholarships.

Work Study Programs

There are lots of programs that will help you pay for college if you work for them.  I have heard that UPS has a work study program and I’m sure other companies have them also.  Search work study programs in your area, it can’t hurt.  

Part-Time Jobs

You can always go out and get a job.  These jobs pay money that can be used for college expenses.  I worked through college and my best semesters grades were the semesters that I worked.  I did not work my first semester of college and my grades were horrible.  After that semester, grades skyrocketed.  So, working through college is not a bad thing.  Will minimum wage jobs pay for college?  No, you have to find something that pays better than minimum wage.  I heard a story of a lady who got a real estate license and was a realtor during her college years.  The commission from the sales was more than enough to pay for college.

Resident Assistant

The resident assistant programs are great ways to earn free living and dining expenses.  I utilized this opportunity while I was in college and this helped keep my college debt down.  I just wish I would have tried harder to stay out of debt in college.


Here is the biking tip again?  Yep, that’s right!  Biking can definitely help you save money.  I once heard of a guy who didn’t have a car in college, so he didn’t have any of the expenses associated with a car. Car repairs, car insurance, car registration and gas were all ways that this guy saved money.  He was able to use this money on college expenses.  

Book Purchases and Re-selling

I recently read that Amazon has the cheapest books for college.  They even have a rent program for books.  During one semester of grad school, my wife knew that she wouldn’t be keeping a book, so we rented it from Amazon and then returned it at the end of the semester.  It was simple and easy and one-third the cost of purchasing the book.  At the end the semester, there is also the possibility of selling the books.  I just sold them back to the bookstore when I was in college, but I probably could have gotten more if I would have sold it myself.


Grants are great opportunities to receive free money, just like a scholarship.  I was able to use the Pell Grant to help me pay for some of my college expenses.  These are harder to find, but they are out there.

College Choice

The place where you attend college can affect how much debt you have.  State schools are the best way to get a degree the cheapest.  I would even say that where you get a degree is not as important as your work ethic.  You can get a degree anywhere and anyone can get a degree, but a good work ethic s sometimes a needle in a haystack.  


I created a decent list of possible strategies to get through college debt free.  Are there others?  You tell me?  I am interested in starting a series title “Debt Free Students.”  I want to hear your stories of how you got through college debt free.  These stories will inspire and hopefully help a lot of our readers stay away from student loans.  If you are interested in telling your debt free college story, then contact me here.  We will start the stories with one about my wife (my wife can be shy, so I am writing the story for her).

Debt Free Students: Two Degrees, Almost Three

My wife started college the same year as I did.  She went to college in Texas and I went to college in Nebraska.  Little did I know, that my future wife was on her way to earning two degrees debt free.  She ran track in college, which does not leave a lot of time for a job.  Her job was basically running track.  She did not get a scholarship for running track, so her parents paid for her undergraduate degree.  This was a blessing that her parents were able to do that and I am grateful in the woman that I married.

After undergrad, my wife decided to get a nursing degree.  This moved her to Houston (which is where we met).  Once again, luckily my wife’s parents paid for all of her nursing degree.  This was another huge blessing.  We started dating after she started her job in nursing.  And we got married a year and a half later.

After we got married, my wife started working on her master’s degree.  This time, she did not receive any help from her parents.  This makes sense, because we got married and were supporting ourselves.  This meant paying for college expenses.  So, we paid for her first semester out of our savings (we did this while we were paying off debt).

Luckily, my wife works at a hospital that gives tuition reimbursement.  There are some requirements.  She must work full-time, must maintain a certain GPA, and must stay at least a year after receiving the reimbursement (If she leaves before a year, then we must repay the amount that was given to her).  At the end of each semester, she fills out a form and submits it to the hospital.  The hospital then reimburses the tuition.  We have done this each semester and have utilized this program to help us pay for her graduate degree.  By the end of December, my wife will have two undergrad degrees and one master’s degree.  All of them were earned debt free.