- Start young. As soon as you reach this baby step, no matter how young the kids are (if you have kids), start a college fund. If you don't have kids, start a fund the day they are born!
- Contribute to the fund automatically and take advantage of tax shelters. The point of this article is not to discuss specific plans, but 529s are a popular choice, and provide tax advantages.
- Teach your kids to work and to pay for part of their education. My parents did this with my sister and me. We didn't have to pay for our entire education, but we did have to pay for part of it. This gives the student a sense of importance and responsibility. He/she is less likely to waste money when it's his/her own!
- Work on scholarships...over and over and over. Get as many as possible. Dave loves to talk about how to get lists of unclaimed scholarships. While those are great (and should be explored), I like to urge young people to start applying for scholarships well before their Senior year of high school. Build them up. Apply for as many as you can.
- Live in the dorm, not off campus. Many students get deeper into debt because they are living off campus in high-rent apartments and eating out every night. That's not the purpose of school!!!
The final way Dave suggests going to college debt-free is to only attend community colleges and state schools. He strongly suggests staying away from private institutions. Obviously, I disagree with this, seeing as how I sent to a private university--and did so without student loans.
It's not easy to do, but you can even pay for a school like Freed-Hardeman (where all four writers of this blog went to college) if you will plan ahead. And, as much as you are going to hate this sentence, student loan debt is not the worst kind you can have. If you use the loans to pay for school (and not for pizza and off-campus living) and if you use it for a solid Christian education, it's worth it.
Use the points listed above, but, if you want to attend a school like FHU, do it. Go as debt-free as possible, but don't miss out on the opportunity to meet Christian friends in a great environment. That's an eternal investment!
But, if you will plan ahead, you can even go somewhere like that without one dollar of student loan debt when you graduate.
And then? Step 6.