A College Education Without Debt

15 Sep

The internet and academic types are all a twitter about new book, Debt-Free U: How I Paid For an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching Off My Parents by Zac Bissonette.  The title really tells you what the book is all about; not catchy but certainly complete.

The book is timely as people struggle financially to make ends meet.  College seems a luxury for the middle class.  The entitlement generation who expected mommy and daddy to pay for their education can no longer count on this support as many parents have lost their jobs, savings, retirements etc.

It is difficult for these parents to even push education, as many of them were very well educated and lost their jobs anyway.  They see less skilled trades still having jobs.  For some, their education may even be a barrier to getting a job as it makes them over-qualified for positions.

So, it is a necessity for students to figure out how to pay for their education on their own.  Most will take out student loans sending them into the real world with a mountain of debt.  Bissonette offers up alternatives for students willing to work hard, but I found most of his suggestions unrealistic.

One of his suggestions was that a student buys a house in the neighborhood, instead of losing money on rent or taking out student loans to live in the dorms.  A loan by any other name is still a loan whether it comes from Sally Mae or Fanny Mae.  Housing loans are often more difficult to get these days than student loans.  So, it is probably unrealistic to believe a student right out of high school is going to qualify for a loan.

Another suggestion he makes is to attend a cheaper two year college, then transfer those credits to the four year college to finish only paying slightly more the last two years.  Well, those two year colleges tend to be more specialized, can cost more than the four year college, and often do not have credits that transfer.  Think about it, the college you are transferring to is the one who determines if the credits will transfer.  They lose money by transferring more of your credits, so in this case less really is more to the college where you transfer.

I do agree with Bissonette’s idea of going to a state school, instead of an ivy league school.  If you go in the right state some of those ivy league professors are likely to be moonlighting at the state school.  You get the same education for half the price.  However, you do miss out on the networking component of college, which can be far more important than the education.  So it really boils down to choosing which gene pool you want to swim in down the road.  College is where we meet the people who will marry us in the future and who will hire us in the future.  Essentially you are investing in your future.

You can find comfort in the fact that ninety percent of students do not work in the field they major in, so if you hate it there is still a chance to gain experience over education in the real world.  One of Bissonette’s practical solutions for leaving college debt free is to work at least 30 hours a week while you are in school.  Those could be some of the most important hours you spend during your academic career, because they will be establishing the building blocks for experience and relationships that will propel you forward financially.  The bottom line; it really is about “who you know, not what you know.”

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