I Get a Lesson In College Financial Planning: From My Hair Sylist.
It is now almost universally accepted as truth that the days where a youngster could work their way through college are over, a victim of the relentless (and ridiculous) increase in the price of a college education. But the young lady giving me a haircut today put that notion to bed, proving that college without debt is not only possible - she is doing it.
For the last two years, Sonya has been attending Morris County Community College studying Computer Science. She has been attending through the NJ Stars program, which allows students who graduate in the top 20% of their high school class to attend any NJ community college FOR FREE. Meanwhile, she's been living with her parents and working (as a hair stylist), saving what she can to complete her education.
Sonya graduated in June with her Associates Degree and transferred to NJIT. Under the NJ Stars program (as she described it) if you graduate with a 3.5 or above, you get a scholarship in the sum of about $1500 / semester to attend a NJ state college or univesity. I commented on how that must keep the pressure for grades on. She must be a smart cookie, because her comment was something like "Yeah, jf you get a C it can really pull your average down. But I never got a C."
So now Sonya is attending NJIT, tuition cost $11,000 per semester, less $1500 for the scholarship. Remember she is living with her folks, and is still working which saves the $8500 or so in room and board - so with MINIMAL help from her parents, the kid is putting herself through school and is on track to graduate with a degree in a high earning discipline - WITH NO DEBT. Wow!
Even if we took the NJ Stars program out of the equation, kids whose goal is simply to get an education, degree, and start their career can do what Sonya did at a very affordable cost, and can probably pay for a large portion with their own earnings from work. But if beer pong, frat parties, and dorm life are an essential part of your college dream - this becomes almost impossible to pull off.
At the risk of getting political, I wonder why our government sees fit to lend kids tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars - and then forgive those loans after bleeding the student dry for 20 years of payments - without at least requiring that students take a low cost approach to education, such as the above. Ultimately, adults I speak with who have large student debt burdens almost unanimously express regret that they didn't do this.