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I have read a variety of articles and studies regarding students coming out of college with a burden of college debts. Tuition inflation rates are increasing faster than the average inflation average and most students are unable to live a stress free existence with debt looming over them. While students will still fall into debt, there are alternatives for students to consider.

AmeriCorps

Members of AmeriCorps work for more than 2,000 nonprofits, public agencies and community organizations. Jobs include everything from constructing affordable housing to teaching and cleaning up public parks. To qualify for service in AmeriCorps, you must be at least 17 and be a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident. Each program is different so you may have to meet specific qualifications to serve in individual AmeriCorps programs. For more information, visit Americorps.org.

Volunteers who complete one full year of full-time service are eligible for the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award which is a $4,725 grant. The grant can be put towards the costs of college or used to repay existing student loans. Part-time volunteers receive smaller awards. In addition, AmericaCorps participants are also eligible for loan forbearance throughout their terms of service.

Peace Corps

The Peace Corps is an independent United States federal agency begun by President John Kennedy in which Americans volunteered to work for two years helping people in underdeveloped countries. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens at least 18 years of age. A college degree and speaking a foreign language isnít required but it definitely helps in getting accepted. Peace Corps volunteers are assigned to various areas and programs. The programs include agriculture, public health and HIV/AIDS education, information technology, and business development.

If you are accepted as a volunteer, you can apply for a deferment of Stafford and Perkins loans, as well as consolidation loans, while volunteering with the Peace Corps. For each year you spend in the program, 15% of your Perkins loans will be forgiven, up to a total of 70%. Some commercial loans can also be deferred. Talk to a Peace Corps recruiter to find out more about the particulars.

Federal Perkins Loan Teacher Cancellation

Borrowers performing teaching services might be eligible for cancellation credit that can be applied toward payments of loan principal and accrued interest. A teacher is defined as one who is a professional employee of a school or school system working on a full-time basis and is devoted to providing classroom instruction or related services in support of the education program.

According to Student Aid

Teacher in a school serving students from low-income families; or

special-education teacher, including teachers of infants, toddlers, children, or youth with disabilities; or

teacher in the fields of mathematics, science, foreign languages, or bilingual education, or in any other field of expertise determined by a state education agency to have a shortage of qualified teachers in that state.

A special-education teacher who provides instruction to infants, toddlers, children or youth with disabilities. (For more information on specific requirements for special-education teachers, visit Student Aid on the Web.gov) Eligibility for teacher cancellation is based on the duties presented in an official position description, not on the position title. To receive a cancellation, you must be directly employed by the school system. There is no provision for canceling Perkins Loans for teaching in postsecondary schools. Note that you also qualify for deferment while youíre performing teaching service that qualifies for cancellation. For all other questions, consult with administrators at your school or contact the U.S. Department of Education. Organizations including the National Health Service Corps, the Army National Guard and the National Institutes of Health all sponsor loan forgiveness programs that turn borrowed cash into free dough in exchange for post-graduate service.

Cooperative Education (Co-op)

Cooperative Education (Co-op) is an off-campus work program that blends classroom learning with paid practical work experience. Three semesters of full-time Co-op work experience or six semesters of part-time work are required for undergraduate engineering students; two semesters of full-time work or four semesters of part-time work are required for graduate students and undergraduates in non-engineering majors. The primary purpose of the program is to provide students with career-related, professional work experience.


Get college credit in high school

One of the best ways to keep college debts manageable is to cut down on the amount of time you're in school. High school students can earn up to two years' worth of college credits by taking upper-level courses that offer both high school and college credit.

Students can earn college credit in one of three ways

1)Through advanced placement

2) International Baccalaureate

3) Through dual enrollment courses.

These options cost significantly less than traditional college classes and oftentimes are paid for directly by the students' high school, county or state. However, Susan Nesbitt-Perez, vice president for outreach and financial aid for the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities, warns students not to automatically assume that all of their credits will be transferable. She says that every college is different and if a student knows what college they want to go to they should contact the college prior to enrolling.

She also suggests that students not to overload themselves on college-level courses. Earning poor grades in these courses can lower your GPA and potentially make you ineligible for merit-based financial aid.

Tax credits

Hope And The Lifetime Learning Tax Credits provides a $1,500 tax credit for each student for the first two years of college, as long as you are the one paying for college vs the federal government or private financial aid. (Parents who claim the student as a dependent on their tax return would be eligible for the credit.) The key to taking advantage of this credit is to plan ahead and be aware of the stipulations.

Work for the college / university

Most colleges and universities offer some form of tuition remission to their full-time employees and many extend a similar benefit to part-time employees as well. If you can't land a staff position at the school of your choice, don't forget that many companies offer tuition reimbursement packages. A study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management estimates that 67 percent of all employers offer financial assistance to employees seeking an undergraduate degree.

Take your basic / required courses at a community college

According to different financial aid organizations, the average community college tuition rate is 40 percent less than the average tuition rate at four-year public colleges and about 10 percent less than the average tuition rate at four-year private institution. By attending a community college for a year or two, you'll not only save money on tuition, you'll also save on room, board and transportation. Make sure your credits are transferable and keep your eye on your four-year college goal.

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