paying for college
scott evans
smart ways to pay for college
April 29, 2014

A Debt-Free Degree


Scott: Getting a college degree isn’t cheap, but paying for one doesn’t have to mean tens of thousands of dollars in debt. Prepare to meet some young people who made it happen. And, I don’t know, maybe take some notes.

Andrew Magbee is a senior at Southwestern Christian University getting ready to graduate. And he paid for his entire education – $25,000 a year in tuition – on his own.

Andrew Magbee: I’m paying my last school payment with pennies. It kind of reminds me, and it will remind me in the future, that every little penny counts.

Scott: Five hundred pounds of pennies, carefully rolled, stacked and ready for payment. Loose change he has collected over the years. Now, that, along with working odd jobs, even starting his own business, he is graduating without a penny of debt.

Andrew: It’s very freeing knowing that you’ve graduated without debt.

Scott: Seven out of ten college students graduate owing money in student loans. And the average loan debt in 2012 was almost $30,000.

College tuition has gone up faster than the rest of our country’s costs, by 27% in the past five years. Tuition at a private four-year college averages at just under $40,000 a year. But there are students who say you don’t have to go into debt to get a degree, like Stephanie Lilly, a senior at Oregon State University.

Stephanie Lilly: It’s like a business. You know, it brings in the money and, you know, it works.

Scott: She began collecting cans and bottles her junior year of high school to fundraise for a senior trip but now found it is an easy way to earn money for college. Five-cents per can and a little less for plastic.

Stephanie: We drive around the community and if they’re set out, we pick them up and then usually we’ll wait a few hours and then we’ll go out again for people that are a little later. I will say that between my job and the bottles, which are my two incomes, I’m debt free.

Scott: Freshman Jessica Phan knew that paying her tuition at the University of California, Irvine would be her responsibility.

Jessica Phan: Each year, it goes higher and higher and it’s hard because I know my family income isn’t increasing at the same rate that college tuition is increasing.

Scott: She paid for her first year of school a more traditional way, by tapping into the billions of dollars available in ‘free money,’ scholarships and grants that you don’t have to pay back.

Jessica: If I didn’t have the scholarship or grants, I would definitely be struggling with debt until I was forty.

Scott: Experts say these young people are doing everything right, and you can learn from them. First, start saving for college early, like now! Putting aside extra change, a dollar here and there, it will all add up over time. Second, be sure to apply for as many scholarships and grants as possible, and then use loans as a last resort. And last, get a job while going to college. Even just a part time income can help you stay out of debt.

Andrew: You can do anything you set your mind to, so that’s the exciting part.

Scott: For more strategies on how to cover the cost of your college education, head on over to


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