Student Loan Alternatives for Students in 2016-2017

Student Loan Alternatives

Hello folks! Today I am bringing you a guest post from Pyper who blogs over at Weird Scholarships.

Pyper is the founder of the scholarship website: After experiencing student loans for the first time in college, she decided to find a better way to pay for her education. That way turned out to be scholarships which helped her pay for the remainder of college. This led to her interest in student loan debt and its number one solution: scholarships!

Pyper has some great resources for all students. I hope you check out her site and give it a follow. So without further ado, let’s hear from Pyper!


Paying for college is a burden on all students, and it can often be a significant source of stress. As you approach your college days, it is time to start thinking about how you plan to pay for it and how you want to handle any debt that may come about.

Student loans are available to students, but you may want to avoid them for a couple of reasons. For instance, student loans require you to pay back all of the money that you borrowed PLUS interest on that money. This means that your student loan bill can be as much as double the original amount you borrowed. You may want to figure out an alternative to student loans, or else you may end up making a big mistake!

If you are trying to seek out student loan alternatives, we will list several of them below and you should give them some consideration as they can help you stay out of debt or minimize it as much as possible.

Free Community College Classes

If you are able to take free community college classes, take advantage of it. Tuition at other colleges can exceed most people’s wildest dreams. Often times, colleges will offer free classes to students where you do not have to pay to take them. You can find these classes on campus and online.

If you are still in high school, now is the time to think about college and what classes you need to take. Most high school students can participate in dual enrollment, which allows you to attend college for free and earn credits while you are in school. This is a great way to give yourself a head start and limit the amount of money you have to pay for your education. If you are interested in dual enrollment, you should speak with your guidance counselor.


Scholarships are considered to be free money for school, so you do not have to pay back any money received. There are thousands of scholarships available to students and you are not limited to how many you can receive or how much money you can gain from them. Therefore, if you win 10 scholarships for $5,000 each, you have a total of $50,000 to be applied to your school-related expenses.

Scholarships can be found online or your financial aid counselor can provide you with some leads as well. When you do apply for a scholarship, make sure to spend time on your application and try to stand out from the crowd. Another good idea is to apply for niche specific (ex. This Gates Millennium Scholarship helps minorities such as African Americans and Hispanics) or lesser known scholarships as there is less competition.

Federal Grants

Federal grants are considered to be gift money, which does not have to be paid back. Federal grants are available to students who are financially in need of them. The most well-known federal grant is the Federal Pell Grant.

The amount of money that you receive will depend on your specific financial need, but the maximum limit for the Federal Pell Grant is $5,815 for the 2016-2017 school year.

Federal Work Study

The federal work-study program, often abbreviated FWS, provides both undergraduate and graduate students with part-time job options to help them pay for college. This program is in place to help encourage students to participate in community service work within the field of study the student is earning a degree in.

Jobs are available on a first come-first serve basis based on how much funding the school has available. Jobs are available mainly on campus, but you may find some jobs available off campus as well. One of the benefits of this program is that your college is required to work around your class schedule, so you do not have to worry about possibly losing your job due to having to attend class.

The amount of money you receive will be at least the current federal minimum wage in your state. In addition, the amount you receive will depend on your financial need and the level of funding that your school has available, so it is important to apply early and submit your FAFSA on time.

The money you earn can be used to pay for your tuition, books, or education-related expenses. You can also choose to have the money deposited into your bank account and use it to pay for your living costs while you are in school.

Stipend Money from Volunteer Programs

Lastly, you may be able to find a volunteer program in your area that will provide you with an education stipend if you volunteer a certain number of hours per month to their program. A good example of this is the AmeriCorps program, which provides education stipends to those who participate in the program.

If you are looking for student loan alternatives, the above ideas can help you pay for college without having to borrow any money. You should exhaust all of these options before you apply for a student loan and if you do need to take out a loan, only borrow the amount you truly need.


















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  1. Good ideas! One tip I’d like to add to the list for others is to see if you can find a job where they reimburse for college expenses. Part-time places like Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and UPS often have reimbursement programs where they’ll help cover thousands of dollars a year in college costs. I made my way through undergrad by having an employer that reimbursed college expenses, and later got an MBA the same way.

  2. You mentioned it but the One tip I’d really like to highlight is about the free and low cost community colleges. Consider getting part of your degree there and finishing at a major public school. Your resume will still say a major school at much lower price. My wife’s father was a university professor so she got free schooling in the state system, so that might be another option. You could also move some place like Georgia 2 years prior to then end of high school. Those with high gaps get a free ride to he local state schools.

    1. Wow nice, tips. I never heard of that in Georgia before, nice deal!

      I received a decent amount of my college credit from summer courses at the local community college. Some solid savings there!

      And lastly, I had a friend who has free college because her mom worked in the system. That’s an awesome benefit!

      Thanks for the great tips!

  3. I really wish I had put some emphasis into scholarships back when I was attending college. For some reason, I always though scholarships were really hard to get, but there are so many organizations out there giving away scholarships that very few people apply for. It makes sense of course. I was super lazy in high school. There’s no way I was going to spend time writing essays or applying for scholarships.

    But if you think about it, it’s a huge hourly wage if you can even pull a few thousand in scholarships.

  4. One thing to consider is taking 1 year off before starting college. I know most people would say no to that, but for me it worked. I graduated high school and immediately got a $10/hour job. I worked full-time for one year (while living with mom and dad) and I had earned roughly $21,000 before taxes. That helped me immensely as I then started school. I believe it was the biggest reason why I was able to graduate debt free.

    1. Wow, nice! Thanks for sharing, Jacob. Not a bad idea at alk and good for you for putting that into your education. I would have been tempted to spend some of that nice chunk of change!

  5. Geez, Green Swan, you are starting the college planning early! I hope our little Ms. ERN will benefit from this advice once she’s going off to college. I would hate her to start her life with a lot of debt.
    One piece of advice that I always give: start the 529 plan before the kids are born with yourself as beneficiary. Then change the beneficiary to Jr. once he/she is born. It doesn’t save you money per se, but spreads out the accumulation phase over a longer interval.

    1. Haha yes, a very early jump :)!

      That’s a good idea on the 529 plan. I wish we would have done that for our first to take advantage of a longer period of tax free growth.

      Thanks for sharing, ERN!

  6. I agree GS, you have to really think it through before deciding whether or not to go to college. As taking up a student loan shouldn’t be done recklessly.

    The worst part is halfway through studying, you are having second thoughts but you are already tied down by the loan. Great article on letting them know about the alternatives!

    1. Good point, TW. I know a few people who were in that situation where if they were to stop going to school they’d have to soon start paying back that debt. Tough situation to be in!

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