We sometimes forget that there are many college students in this country graduating with zero debt. In fact, about two-fifths of undergraduate students complete their degree debt-free, and three-fifths finish with less than $10,000 in student loans. Yes. It can be done.
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Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Finaid.org and Fastweb.com recently wrote a paper describing the average profile of college students graduating with zero debt. Here’s the who’s who of debt-free students:
- Students at In-State Public Colleges. According to Kantrowitz, 85% of undergraduate students who graduate with no debt graduated from public colleges, with almost 78% enrolled in an in-state public college. State appropriations help public colleges keep tuition low for state residents. I graduated from Penn State in 2002 debt free, as well. Meantime, less than 7% of students enrolled in for-profit colleges graduated with no debt, compared with 30% at non-profit colleges and 51% at public colleges. When I later graduated from Columbia in 2003 with a master’s degree, I had about $25,000 in student loan debt.
- Students enrolled in 2-year programs. About 50% of community college students graduate with no debt. Also, 61% of students receiving an associate’s degree from a public college graduated with no debt. 68% of students receiving a certificate from a public college graduated with no debt.
- Students attending low-cost college. Kantrowitz also writes that 88% of students who graduated from a school costing $10,000 or less in tuition and fees finished with zero debt.
- Budget-minded students. Students who graduate with no debt spend no more than $1,000 per year on textbooks. Students who also live at home with their parents are more likely to graduate without debt than other students.
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Bottom line: Graduating from college with little to no debt is possible. Achieving an education does not have to be a financial burden, as it is unfortunately proving to be for so many Americans. We all deserve an education, but we also deserve to give ourselves the best possible solutions for achieving and affording that education. Your degree should give you an advantage in your career and financial life, not set you back.
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Image: John Walker, via Flickr.com