Zero Debt College: Is It Possible?

Zero Debt College: Is It Possible?

Can you graduate college without debt? Is it even possible?

The student loan problem in the United States is bigger than ever. How big? Consider this, in the United States, over 44 million borrowers owe nearly $2 trillion in student loan debt. And debt is more than just a number for the millions of Americans who owe on their loans. Significant student loan debt can seriously stymie your progress in life, with millions putting off buying a home, starting a family, or changing careers due to financial stress.

  • Nearly 34% of adults under 30 report having student loans to pay off.
  • 21% of employed borrowers from the ages of 25 to 39 say they have more than one job. That’s nearly double the rate of their peers who don’t have student loans.
  • Those with student loans spend a good chunk of their salary on repayment instead of saving. Borrowers risk high fees and a lowered credit scores if they cannot make payments. 

As someone looking to complete their degree, you have every incentive to avoid getting into unnecessary debt. Going into debt to achieve your bachelor’s degree doesn’t have to be your reality. In this blog post, we’ll explain to you how you can make that possible. 

How to earn your degree without debt 

Choose a Low-Cost School

The first thing you should do if you’re looking to graduate college with little or no debt is to research low-cost colleges.

One of the things to consider when searching for low-cost colleges is whether or not the school has a fixed tuition rate. A fixed tuition rate means that the school’s tuition rate does not rise during the four years of your program. 

 Now, you may have a shortlist of dream schools you’d like to attend. But if graduating debt-free is your top priority, you should check out more cost-effective options.

What does cost-effective look like?

  • Picking a public university instead of a private college
  • Attending a college in-state instead of out-of-state
  • Living at home instead of on-campus
  • Considering an online college or university
  • Completing your basic education requirements at a two-year college (or testing out of prerequisite courses via CLEP), then transferring

Doing any of the above may mean paying less in tuition, room and board, and other college expenses. 

Look for Financial Aid and Scholarships 

Get the most financial aid possible. Make sure that you fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. You can even fill out your FAFSA before you decide which college to attend. Knowing your eligibility beforehand may help you make the best college choice. 

While each state has a different deadline for FAFSA, your preferred schools may have an entirely different deadline. Try to submit your application as early as possible. 

After you’ve submitted your FAFSA, you’ll receive a document called a student aid report (SAR). This report will tell you if you qualify for a grant, a work-study program, or any other type of federal aid. It won’t tell you the amount of student aid you qualify for, as your college will determine that. 

Some colleges have more funding available than others, and funding is often limited. The sooner you file your FAFSA, the sooner you’ll find out the aid programs available to you. If you wait too late to file your FAFSA, you may miss out on grants and work-story funding. 

Research Scholarships

If you find out you’re not eligible for aid at your school, other scholarship programs may be available to you. Organizations like civic groups, nonprofit clubs, and religious programs may offer scholarships to people meeting specific criteria. Check for scholarships with organizations in the industry you’re interested in studying. You can start with a simple Google, visiting your financial aid officer, or checking on industry websites.

Plan to Graduate Early

Plan to graduate early or at least on time. Studies show that taking longer to finish your degree can significantly increase student loan debt.

Graduating earlier has many benefits. For one, you can save potentially thousands on the cost of your tuition and housing. In addition to money on the cost of college, you can start earning a higher income sooner with your professional degree. By gaining early career experience, you set yourself on a path for a more secure future. You also get a headstart when it comes to interviewing. The fall after graduation, there is a big rush of recent graduates into the job market. If you graduate early and are ready for the job market in winter or spring, you may find less competition. 

How to graduate earlier 

One of the best ways to graduate college sooner is through a process called Credit-by-Exam. Credit-by-Exam allows you to take tests on general education courses, and if you pass your exams, earn college credits toward those subjects. Simply put, instead of taking a 16-week course that costs hundreds or thousands of dollars, you can take one single exam, earn college credits and shave weeks or even years off your program. 

The only problem? Studying for Credit-by-Exam on your own can be extremely difficult. You may not even know where to start, what to study, or if the resources you find online are up-to-date. That’s where Smarter with Achieve can help. 

Smarter with Achieve is a college guidance company. We not only help you study for Credit-by-Exam tests like DSST, CLEP and UEXCEL, we can also help you pick a college that’ll maximize your Credit-by-Exam opportunities.

Every customer with Smarter with Achieve receives:

  • Instructor guidance. Our instructors will help you brush up on your knowledge before the test day and give you insider information on how the exams are structured.
  • A library of study materials. When you register with Smarter, you get practice tests and guidelines, so you’ll be confident when facing your CLEP, DSST, or ECE exam.
  • Exam-specific questions. Get access to exam-specific questions to help you prep for CLEP.

Are you ready to get your degree in the fastest way possible? Contact Smarter with Achieve today. 


The Secret to Saving on Student Loans You Probably Aren’t Doing

The Secret to Saving on Student Loans You Probably Aren’t Doing

Want to go to college but worried about student loan debt? 

The student loan crisis is bigger than ever. Recent statistics show that Americans hold over 1.6 trillion in student loan debt, a number that continues to rise. 

Yet, despite the debt that comes with college, more people are choosing to go than not. With advancements in technology and automation, many jobs that did not require a college degree are being phased out. You might find it harder to earn a living wage without having some college education under your belt. After all, college graduates earn, on average, 80% more than those with just a high school diploma. 

So that means that while college is more expensive, it is still more important than ever before. But that puts you in a serious predicament. On one hand, you can risk getting into debt funding a college education. Or, you can miss out on the benefits (and pay) that come with a college degree. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to save on a college education.

Interested in saving money on college? See how Smarter with Achieve can help!

How CLEP exams can save you money on student loans

For many people, taking on part-time jobs and applying for college is one way to offset the cost of college and possible student debt, but there is another method you may not have heard of: CLEP.

CLEP isn’t the most talked-about way to reduce college costs, but it’s one you should seriously consider. CLEP exams can save you or your parents a lot on the cost of college, and thus student loans.

Here’s how it works…

CLEP (the College Level Examination Program) is a program by the College Board. Anyone of any age can study and take CLEP exams on over 30 subjects, and if they pass, receive college credits for that course. 

CLEP exams are a lot like the AP exams you took in high school. The only difference is you can study at your own pace. With CLEP exams, you take your exam when you’re ready, not just at the end of the semester. You can take CLEP tests at over 2,000 testing centers nationwide. Plus, CLEP costs $85, so you can save thousands on college credits. 

Who is CLEP for?
  • CLEP exams are ideal for high schoolers due to their low cost and flexibility. High schoolers who take CLEP can expect to earn college credits before entering a university campus. 
  • Homeschoolers who are used to self-study can adapt incredibly well to CLEP 
  • Working students can take CLEP exams to work college around their busy schedules. 
  • Anyone who wants to save time and money on college. 

Ready to get started with CLEP? See how Smarter with Achieve can help!

How much can I save with CLEP?

To illustrate the savings of taking CLEP exams as part of your college preparation, let’s look at in-state tuition at the Xavier University of Louisiana. 

In-state tuition costs $1219.00 per course. A passing CLEP score can earn you 3-college credits. If you pass CLEP, you would only spend $112 on the exam (including testing site fees). That’s a savings of $1107 per course! Even if you have to retake a few exams, you’d still save tons of money on the cost of college. 

Not only that, you’ll save on textbooks, room and board, and transportation for a whole semester, and maybe more! 

Save on student loans with Smarter with Achieve.

Taking and passing CLEP exams is a great way to earn college credits, save money and avoid student loan debt.

Want to find out how many credits you can earn with CLEP at your specific school? Have our team identify all of the eligible courses, and while they’re at it, tell you how much it will cost to prep for each course using Smarter.

Ready to get started? Know exactly which courses your school will let you CLEP. Get your Prep Course Plan today. 

Everything You Need to Consider About Student Loan Debt

Everything You Need to Consider About Student Loan Debt

Student loan debt is a huge issue in the U.S. today. In fact, it’s grown so big (more than 7% of our GDP!) it’s even affecting important life aspects like business ventures, retirement, and even marriage! 

Let’s face it. College is expensive. To complete your degree, you need to deal with the rising tuition costs, board, transportation, and books. 

But you keep going because you know earning a degree is essential. It will not only give you an opportunity to get a high-paying job, it’ll also help you develop your natural talents. It’ll open the door to opportunities for networking. 

But before you start earning a living after school, you need to find ways to fund your personal expenses and cost of living.

So you take out a student loan. While this solves the immediate need for cash, it comes with considerations you need to weigh carefully. For instance, how much can you afford to borrow? Will you be able to pay back your debt once you graduate from college? 

If these are questions you’re asking, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we explore the considerations you need to make before taking out a student loan. We go over the common problems students face when dealing with loans. Also, we tackle ways you can rise over the challenges and start your career after college with less debt and more freedom. 

Let’s dive in!

The Problem of Student Loan Debt 

The problem of student loan debt is reaching a crisis. In fact, student loans are so big they are next only to home loans in the U.S. Both federal and private student loans are at approximately $1.4 trillion, setting a record for the highest these loans have ever been. 

Student loans help students cover the rising costs of higher education. But is it best option when considering your long-term financial health? Families encourage young people to borrow because they have their eyes on the benefits of earning a degree. For example, as a college graduate, you’ll earn $1.3 million more than a non-college graduate over your lifetime. 

The problem arises when you aren’t able to pay back your loans. You might think it’ll be easy to pay off your loans once you graduate and start earning. But this isn’t the case. In fact, the problem of student loan repayment and bad debt hound millions of Americans of different ages. For example, people in their 30s struggle with unpaid student loans averaging $40,476.

It’s difficult to deal with, especially when it’s coupled with inflation and the expenses of day-to-day life. Besides these, there are other factors that make paying student loan debt back even more difficult. Here are three of them.

1. Failure to Graduate

Entering college doesn’t ensure you’ll earn your degree. In fact, only 41% of students graduate in four years. That leaves 59% who drop out or get stuck on their road to earning a degree. 

If you’ve already accumulated large student loans, failure to graduate puts you in a bad position. This is because it’ll be difficult for you to enter companies that require degrees for high-paying jobs. As a low-level earner, paying off tens of thousands in student loan debt will be next to impossible. 

2. Not Graduating on Time

As mentioned, most students do not graduate in four years. While there are dropouts who never graduate at all, there are also students who take five or six years to complete their course work. 

While it’s always a reason to celebrate when you graduate, not completing your courses in four years can be problematic for you. This is because the longer you stay in college, the higher your expenses will rise. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself needing to re-loan just to keep yourself in school.

3. The Rise of College Costs

College is not getting cheaper with time. In fact, prices have risen incredibly fast in recent years. For instance, in 20 years, the cost for private national universities has risen by 154%. In-state public universities are also more expensive – by 221%!

College is not getting cheaper!

Because paying off student loan debt is so difficult, it’s crucial to consider important factors before applying for a loan. 

Four Factors to Consider Before Getting a Student Loan

Depending on how you manage it, a student loan can be either your downfall or the reason you graduate. Here is a list of factors that’ll help you make the right decisions as you map your way towards graduation.

The Price: Know How Much You Can Actually Afford

It’s not enough to take on a student loan and hope you’ll eventually be able to pay it off once you start working. You need to make a detailed plan on how you’re going to pay the loan back. 

Start by creating a payment plan. First, find out exactly how much you’ll owe in student debt loans once you graduate. Be sure to factor in interest rates and tax advantages. Divide the amount per month and then determine how much salary you’ll expect to earn. When you’ve done this, you’ll have an idea of exactly how much you can afford in student loans.

Interest Rates: Calculate the Costs

The problem with many students is they don’t factor in interest rates when calculating their student loan debt. When you don’t pay attention to this detail, you’ll find yourself in deep water in the future as you face higher bills than you expected.

To counter this problem, make sure you know how much you’ll be paying in interest throughout the years. This varies depending on the kind of loan you choose. For instance, federal loans offer you smaller interest rates than private loans.

The Rules of Student Loans: Understand the Basics

Student loans are different from other types of loans in that they’re almost impossible to get rid of. For example, a student loan is different from regular loans because it’s next to impossible to get rid of it through declaring bankruptcy. 

Your Life Goals: Reflect on What’s Important to You

Maybe you plan on attending a college you’ve always dreamed of going to. However, tuition is pricey and you’ll need a large loan to be able to take classes there. Do you go ahead and get the loan simply because you’ve always wanted to go to that particular college?

The answer is yes, if you can pay the loan off in the right timeframe. For instance, if you’re able to pay the loan off within a few years of graduation, go ahead and apply for it. 

However, being stuck with a loan for a long time can hurt other aspects of your life. It’s a good idea to pay off student loans as quickly as you can. This is because having large debt can hurt your chances of starting up your own business. It can make you postpone marriage. It can even delay your retirement savings and investments. 

So before you go into debt, explore every angle for reducing your student loans.

How to Graduate College with Less Student Loan Debt

If you’re like 70% of students, you need a student loan to get you to graduation. However, a loan isn’t always a bad thing. When you follow these guidelines, it’ll be easier for you to pay off your loans after you graduate.

Stick to a Budget

Once you get your loan, you’ll be tempted to think it’ll last you until graduation. However, college costs are higher than you expect at first. It’s not only tuition. It’s also room and board, your personal expenses, books, transportation, and the cost of materials for projects.To know what to expect, make a reasonable budget and stick to it. List all of your expenses and add the total. This will help you determine how much you can spend per month in college.

Consider Community College for Your First Two Years

You don’t need to declare your major or choose a college until after your sophomore year. Because of this, consider community college as a way to cover your core subjects in an affordable way. You’ll be surprised to find you can save up to 90% on costs by attending community college before transferring your credits to a college of your choice.

Know the Benefits of Credit-by-Exam

Another option you have that’ll significantly lower your debt when you graduate is credit-by-exam. Credit-by-exam is an innovative way to pass exams for college credits.

For instance, there’s CLEP. When you pass a CLEP exam, you earn credits without having to enroll in a course and sit through it for a whole semester. You don’t have to worry about exams, projects, or attending lectures. 

But taking a CLEP exam isn’t only about saving time. You can also save money when you decide on this option. Take a moment to consider it. How much does an average college course cost? If you go to a private college, you can end up spending around $900 for a whole course.  

On the other hand, when you take a CLEP exam, you only need to spend $85 for three credits. That’s more than $800 in savings. More importantly, you reduce your need for student loans!

 Interested in taking credit-by-exam? Achieve can help you determine your chances of passing and give you guidance that’ll increase your chances of earning those college credits quickly and affordably.

How to Graduate College with Less Student Loan Debt

The benefits of graduating are undeniable. However, getting from where you are now to graduation day is a challenging, unpredictable journey. Because of the rising expenses of going to college, you can find yourself neck-deep in debt by the time you finish.The secret is to be innovative in your approach to college. Find ways that’ll significantly lower your expenses. For instance, combining community college with credit-by-exam are two proven and tested ways to cut a huge chunk out of your student loan debt.

If you’re not sure about where to start in making your roadmap towards graduation, talk to one of our Advisors at Achieve. We offer credit-by-exam guidance, and a library of helpful hints you can use to ensure you earn credits the innovative way.

Use the form below to pick a date & time that works for you.