Two-thirds of U.S. college students graduate with an average of $26,600 in student loan debt, according to The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) Project on Student Debt. Overall, student loan debt has topped $1 trillion without any signs of slowing down. Despite the grim statistics, it is possible to graduate from college debt-free and with a little money in the bank.
Participate in Research Studies
Universities, hospitals and marketing companies all need participants of various ages to participate in studies. Universities and hospitals may observe participants for a medical or psychology-related studies. The marketing firm in your area may need college students to join focus groups and talk about their thoughts on brands. Compensation could be $50 to $200 for just a few hours of work.
Start a Business
Consider starting a business while you’re in college as both a resume and income booster. Try tutoring, a laundry service, food delivery or offer guided tours of the ins and outs of your campus and nightlife to prospective students. Partner with local bars or restaurants and offer a coat check in exchange for a cut of the profit, tips and a free meal.
Other ideas: Buy and sell gently used appliances or other items on Craigslist, clean them up, take better photos and re-list it at a profit. If you have a truck, offer to deliver your wares for an additional fee. You can also look for free items on Craigslist like broken lawnmowers to recycle at a scrapyard for extra money.
Apps like Gigwalk allow you to find gigs in your local area to review restaurants and shops in your area or upload photos. You might only make a few bucks, but that can add up to a few hundred over the course of a month.
If you have multiple loans, pick up an app like Tuition.io. This innovative tool helps student simplify their loans, their history, what they owe and how to pay it back—it even helps you figure out how much you can spend each month.
Get Creative With What You Have
What’s going on in your drawers, garage and inside the trunk of your car? Old stuff including broken appliances can be sold on Craigslist for someone to fix up or junked for scrap metal. And if you’re receiving regular structured settlement payments, consider selling them to a company like J.G. Wentworth for a lump sum to cover some or all of your tuition costs.
Rethink Your College of Choice
A pricey four-year university degree isn’t the only viable education. Trade schools, two-year schools and certificate programs are also solid options at a fraction of the cost. Couple that with living at home for a year or two to drastically reduce your overall costs. Look into starting at a community college and transferring to a larger university for the last two years. Remember to carefully review how your credits will transfer in advance.
The best advice for graduating college debt-free is to look at college as an investment and stay diligent about your goals. College isn’t an excuse to rack up debt, overspend and lose focus on your goals. Use college as a time to continuously generate new sources of income and learn creative ways to stay out of debt.