College or Other Options: A Guide to Help You Choose

It’s back to school time!

The world of academia as we know it has been forced to take unprecedented steps in the ways we address the education process from local to international communities. As unsettling as this has been, the attempts to adapt to a new system that required meshing a new virtual teaching environment with getting back into  the traditional classrooms setting has caused a major revamp at every level of the educational system.

We saw the distress it initiated with those who were trying to maintain  thier academic progress, and even moreso with the high school seniors who depended on the system to help them matriculate to the next level. Despite having to make the necessary adjustments, students and thier families are still confronted the age old chaleenges on how to navigate through the ever increasing challenges.  CPAP has collected a wealth of information that can help make the decision-making and problem solving a lot easirer. CPAP can help resolve your concerns with our easy to use program, led by a team of well qualified advisors. 
Where do you get the answers? Let’s take a look at some of the vital facts that can help you begin to formalize the best plan for you.

Going into the 2021-22 year, here’s what the average yearly tuition and fees look like:
Public two-year college (in-district students): $3,770
Public four-year college (in-state students): $10,560
Public four-year college (out-of-state students): $27,020
Private four-year college ($37,6501)

Are a Bad Idea Student Loans 

This year was no different than most as we have witnessed, even though the extra layer of anziety due to the Covid 19 pandemic almost disrupted the process most students have experienced in the past.
We have talked with many parents and students about thier chances of getting into the schools of thier choice and with a financial crisis affecting theier decisions, they tend to opt for the routine loan process. The only option they may seek is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) which determines your financial aid you can get through the government aid programs like the Pell Grants (which for the 2019–20 academic year, individual students can only receive a maximum of $6,195). Here’s where you must find other sources from grants, loans and philanthropic  organizations.
Going to college debt-free is possible though! CPAP can help you to find out how.

Getting an education no matter which route you choose can be expensive. Finding ways to offset the cost is the biggest challenge today. You don’t have to compromise  your dream if you have the necessary tools to implement a successful plan that fits your situation.
Besides the “normal” choice of taking out student loans, you can build a financial portfolio if you maintain a high grade standard and focus on achieving your goals. CPAP can be a part of the solution.

Based on the Federal Reserve figures:
Student debt soared over $1.7 trillion.
The average student debt per graduate reached a record high of $38,792 in 2020.
About 44 million students are in debt.
On the average, it can take anywhere from 10 to 30 years to repay student loans. (depending on the repayment plan and loan amount).

With such a overwhelming amount of debt right right of full-time college (whether you graduate or not), it may cause some to reconsider other alternatives to achieve another mean of getting a employment opportunity or career.

Some Tips to consider

• It’s never too late to apply for scholarships

• Use Your Student ID

• Don’t buy new textbooks

• Choose the right meal plan

Using your own money that you’ve budgeted for specific purposes is always the best and wisest approach to paying for anything. And that includes college. If you’re the parent of younger kids, now might be a great time to begin saving for their education. But if you’re getting closer to campus drop-off day and haven’t saved a dime, don’t panic! I have plenty of tips for you.

Everyone who wants to attend college must fill out what’s known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. That’s just the form schools use to figure out how much money they can offer your child toward attendance, plus what kinds of aid you qualify for. A few facts to know:

The FAFSA is a form you or your child must complete each school year.

Types of aid it covers include federal grants, work-study programs, state aid and school aid—all of which I recommend. (It also covers loans, which are a terrible idea!)

Everyone should fill out the form. There’s no income cutoff to be eligible for financial aid, so you never know how much your child could get until you send it in!

The FAFSA does have a deadline that can vary by state and school, so have your child look at the official FAFSA website (and their potential college’s website) to see when the form needs to be submitted.

Once you or your child have submitted the FAFSA, you’ll get an EFC (Expected Family Contribution) estimating how much your family can afford to pay for college. Colleges will then look at those numbers and send an award letter saying what kind of financial aid your child can get. Read the fine print to make sure your child is being offered a scholarship or grant—not a loan.

Your child can keep getting financial aid all throughout college, so they should fill out the form every year!

Depending on your financial need and the schools you consider, your child may be able to cover their education entirely through grants and/or aid from your state or the school itself. We’ll talk more about grants below. For now, just remember that all financial aid is awarded only to students who fill out their FAFSA.

If you were to ask friends or neighbors the most important factor in choosing a school, you’d get all kinds of answers, like the name recognition, the size of the dorms, or the success of the football program. But let me just break it down for you: When it comes to choosing a school, the only relevant factor is if you can pay for it without student loans.

At the end of the day, your top priority should be to find a school you can afford. This might mean adjusting your, or your child’s, expectations about going to a certain dream school.

On the other hand, it’s totally possible that their dream school is still within reach if you can find enough scholarships, grants and other aid to make it happen debt-free. I’m not here to discourage anyone from pursuing their dreams. My goal is to help you see that staying out of debt has to be your top priority. If it’s a choice between a full-ride at State U and a $50,000 loan to go to a private university, I’m going to State U all day long.

Keep in mind that the traditional approach to college, where the student moves away to live on campus for four years, is not the only way to get an education—and it’s usually not the cheapest! Here are some alternatives:

All over America, including your hometown, we have these wonderful schools known as community colleges. And I love them. Want to know why? Because they allow people to get valuable college credits on their way to a degree at much cheaper rates than if they’d enrolled in a four-year school right out of high school. They can knock out the basics at a community college for two years, then transfer to a school that offers bachelor’s degrees for years three and four.

And while I’m on the subject, let me deal with a myth I run into all the time. A lot of people seem to think doing their first two years at a community college will hurt them when they go to interview for jobs after graduation. The truth is that few employers—if any—even notice it when applicants only attended two years at the school they graduate from. The main thing they’re looking at is whether you have a degree, and after that, what you studied.

Here’s a helpful tip in understanding how a lot of funding works for state schools. Most states have a flagship school where most of the academic research happens, and several other schools where the focus is more on teaching. The smaller schools tend to have names indicating where they’re located in the state. These “directional” schools not only focus more on your child’s classroom experience, but also have cheaper tuition and fees. That’s a win-win.

In addition to four-year universities and community colleges, your kid shouldn’t ignore the possibility of trade schools. That’s where students who enjoy working with all kinds of practical skills like electrical work, mechanics, plumbing, and home inspections can get valuable training that’s highly marketable. Not to mention, completing a trade school program usually takes less time and less money than getting a bachelor’s degree.

Now that I’ve talked through the basics of finding financial aid and an affordable school, let’s jump into some specific strategies for cash-flowing school. Scholarships are one of your family’s most powerful tools in the journey to cover school without loans because they’re funds you earn and never have to pay back!


Here are my tips for getting the most out of scholarships:

Treat the scholarship search like a job. Or at least encourage your child to treat it that way! Going to school debt-free is serious business, and the paycheck shows up in the form of award letters from scholarship committees. I recommend high schoolers spend several hours a day on summer breaks and weekends searching for and filling out every single scholarship opportunity they can find. The Debt-Free Degree Scholarship Search is an easy way for your kids to look through thousands of scholarships and grants.

The internet is your friend here. Don’t be afraid of doing frequent searches—new scholarships and deadlines are being set up all the time.

Your child should be prepared to write some essays about their personal experiences and career goals.

Look into whether your or your spouse’s workplace offers scholarships for the children of employees.

Get in touch with local community groups, businesses and charities to find out if your child can apply for their scholarships. These are often awarded on the basis of community service or high school GPA.

Once again, we’re talking about free money you do NOT have to pay back—which is the only kind of aid you want. These grants are awarded by schools, organizations and federal assistance programs based on your financial need. Once you’ve completed your FAFSA, you’ll receive word on the federal grants you’re up for. But even if there are no dollars to be had there, you can contact your state grant agency for more aid possibilities.

Now we’ve come to one of my favorite ways for students to pay for a debt-free education: working while they’re in school. Wait, what? Why would I want your child to work a job during college? Here’s why.

I’ve learned through my own personal experience—and talked to plenty of friends and students who’ve agreed—that a certain amount of work outside the classroom or library actually boosts academic performance. I know that goes against the grain of what many in our culture assume, but research confirms that students working a part-time job (less than 20 hours a week) often have better grades than those who aren’t employed.6 A few job possibilities are:


Work-Study Programs

These allow your kid to work part time while attending school. They’ll find out if they’re eligible in your FAFSA letter. Work-study jobs are usually (but not always) on campus, which makes them a convenient way to combine work with schoolwork. Just be sure they understand that the paychecks are supposed to go toward school expenses—not for pizza or beer money!


Off-Campus Jobs

Many jobs are great for busy college students looking to cash-flow school. Your child’s best bet may be customer service jobs that are compatible with a part-time schedule. There’s a lot of money to be made waiting tables, parking cars, or working at the mall. Or consider looking for a part-time office position that might be more in line with their career goals.


Side Business

There’s no limit to the number of ways your child can earn money if they have a valuable skill, hobby or artistic knack they can turn into a marketable product. Think about crafts, clothing design, music lessons, and tutoring.

For many, one of the biggest expenses in college is the cost of room and board. But there’s an easy way to eliminate that for some big savings—live off campus. Whether it’s commuting to class from their own apartment or continuing to live with you, your child can save a bundle.

And I absolutely get the fact that either one of you might not be thrilled with those possibilities. After all, you’re both looking forward to more independence! But there’s another way to look at this that you should consider. If you can see the college years as a temporary season of necessary sacrifice for the victory of debt-free living, you’ll be able to get through anything. Even a few extra years under the same roof!

Now this is one of those pieces of advice that might sound too obvious to mention—until you realize how few people budget! Trust me, it’s worth your time to be sure your child knows how to make and stick to a budget before they leave for college.

By being proactive to list their monthly income and expenses and give every dollar a job to do, your child will begin to really take ownership of their college experience. They’ll also get some insight into just why you don’t want them to take the easy way out by getting school loans! When they see how much it really costs to pay for a month of college in terms of food, transportation, clothing and rent, they’ll probably take their schoolwork more seriously too.

A Great First Step

Want to learn more about how to go to school without loans? Debt-Free Degree is the book all college-bound students—and their parents—need to prepare for this next step. Grab a copy today or start reading for free to get plenty of tips on going to college debt-free!
Now that you’ve got a solid plan to pay for it all, your kids could use their own road map for college success. That’s why I wrote The Graduate Survival Guide. In it, I talk through five mistakes to avoid making in college. It’s full of real-life stories, including some of my own, as well as those of others who’ve been to school and found successful careers.

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