ID 148775158 © Maryia Kazlouskaya |

ID 148775158 © Maryia Kazlouskaya |

It’s no secret attending college is expensive. In fact, the average graduate from a four-year college leaves with over $30,000 in debt, according to the Institute of College Access and Success.

However, the sacrifice is worth the cost, according to research reported by Education Planner, as people with bachelor’s degrees earn over 60% more than those with high school diplomas alone. That cost, though, can mean graduates spend a decade or more with debt looming over their heads, affecting their credit scores, their ability to qualify for loans, and their spending power.

Luckily, there are options for students who want to pay for college without accumulating thousands of dollars in debt. Here are a few to consider.

Home equity loans

Parents who want to help their college students and own homes have access to built-in savings: their home’s equity.

“Borrowing against home equity gives you cash on hand to pay for things that matter, whether it’s a planned home remodel or an emergency need,” according to Richard Socha-Mower Chief Loan Officer with Member One Federal Credit Union.  “There are two primary options: a fixed-rate home equity loan, or a home equity line of credit.”

To determine whether a home equity loan is the right choice, parents should shop among lending institutions to find the best interest rate and ask whether there are closing costs or other fees. Most importantly, they should determine how much of a home’s value they can borrow against. For example, Member One allows borrowing up to 100% of the home’s value, while others may cap the amount at 80%.


Students often dismiss the idea of qualifying for scholarships because they feel their grades or test scores aren’t high enough. However, many scholarships aren’t based on having a high GPA.

The key is to search for scholarships early, as many have deadlines during junior or senior year of high school. Other scholarships are available after a year or two of undergraduate work, although applicants should give themselves time to gather the necessary paperwork.

College Scholarships has a list of 101 grant opportunities, including the following:

  • Federal Pell grants (need-based)
  • Federal study abroad grants
  • State sponsored grants
  • College and university grants
  • Course and career specific grants
  • Athletic and recreation grants
  • Grants for non-traditional students (students returning to college after a long absence)
  • Students with medical conditions or diseases

The list goes on, and students who are serious about avoiding college debt should apply for as many as they qualify for. Earning even one or two can make the time spent as valuable as working a side job.

Co-op education programs

A cooperative education program offers academic credit for job experience. Students who participate are paid for full-time work that can last 3-12 months. Depending on the program, students may be required to complete two or three co-ops for their degree but often are not charged tuition during that time.

This mode of schooling is “a structured method of combining classroom-based education with practical,” according to The Balance Careers.

Co-ops also address what employers often seek in new hires: relevant work experience. In fact, many students who take on co-op positions receive job offers when they graduate.

Not all universities or companies offer co-op positions, so students need to do some research to determine what will work for them.

For more information on home equity loans or to apply, call or visit a Member One Federal Credit Union at one of its many locations in Roanoke Valley, Lynchburg, New River Valley, and Franklin County.