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How to Pay for a College Education without Student Loan Debt


With college costs skyrocketing, many parents feel their college savings plan is on a treadmill and losing ground. Don’t get discouraged. Every dollar you save and pay upfront for tuition and expenses is $2 saved in student loan costs, so it’s no time to slow down your savings. One thing you can do to relieve a little bit of the pressure is to look ahead to your options for paying for college expenses.

When you are approaching the three-year mark before your child enters college, it is time to put a college payment plan into place. Here are some key tactics to consider while you continue to save for college.

Financial Aid

Many parents insist they don’t want to rely upon financial aid because it may not be available to them. The reality is that more than 60% of today’s college students rely heavily on financial aid. You don’t have to make it the cornerstone of your college funding plan, but you should know what is available and the steps to take to obtain it. Between state, federal, and private grants, most students can qualify for funding to cover as much as 50% of their college expenses, sometimes more with financial aid through the college.

Financial aid eligibility is primarily based on your children’s financial position, including your kid’s assets and income, to determine the need. Some private funding sources will also look at the parent’s assets, but they exclude retirement accounts (another good reason to focus on your retirement savings).


There are more scholarships out there than you think. While fewer kids can qualify for the full tuition scholarships (although you can’t rule it out if your kid is an exceptional student), there are lots of smaller scholarships to be had, and they can add up quickly. You should start your scholarship search early when your child is a freshman in high school.

You can start your search online with the Sallie Mae corporation, which provides information and services to match prospective college students with potential scholarships. Your community may also be rich in possible grants and scholarships through associations, employers, and community organizations. You should also check with your child’s high school counselor, who may be wired into available local scholarships.


Most colleges offer work-study employment programs as part of their financial aid program. The college set aside a number of campus jobs that pay a wage and generate financial credits. These jobs are usually limited and available based on financial need.

One type of work/study job is a dorm room supervisor in which an upper-class student lives on-site in a dorm for lower-class students to monitor and supervise their activities. Compensation is free room and board, which can sometimes amount to at least a third of college costs.

Where there are no work/study opportunities, the local community is always a source of jobs for college students. Businesses in a college town rely heavily on college students to fill their part-time positions.

Payment Plans

Look into a payment plan. Check with the colleges you are considering to see if they have a monthly payment plan. This would allow you to maintain control of your funds and keep them earning interest. If you are paying a portion of the costs from current cash flow, it can help with budgeting.

If you have been saving for your children’s college education but still expect to fall short, you don’t necessarily have to rely on student loans to fill the gap. If you’re within a few years of sending your children away to school, you still have time to develop a plan for paying for it with these available resources.

Personal – Saving, Planning & Budgeting

Ready to explore how Sunflower Bank can assist you? Speak to a personal banker at a branch near you, contact a specialist on our Wealth Management team, or find the right financial partner on our Commercial Banking team for your business needs. 

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This article contains general information only. Sunflower Bank is not, by means of this article, rendering accounting, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services. This article is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, before making any decisions related to these matters, you should consult a qualified professional advisor.