Is Debt-Free College Really Possible?

A reader in her 70s once asked me why kids today don’t do what she did: Work for a year after high school and save up enough to pay for a bachelor’s degree.

If you just busted out laughing, then you’re familiar with how high today’s college costs are compared with five or six decades ago. Even with substantial financial aid and one heck of a work ethic, it’s hard to imagine a high school graduate earning enough in a year to pay for four (or usually five or even six) years of college. The average annual sticker price for a public university is close to $20,000, while private schools average over $40,000.

In my latest for NerdWallet, a debt-free college reality check.

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  1. Can you speak to a trend I have been hearing about regarding financial aid for students? Parents are being told to not claim their children as dependents on their tax returns in the student’s last two years of High school, and having them “move” to a relative’s home. (Student doesn’t actually move.) By doing this student will get more grants for college, avoiding loans. This seems fraudulent to me.

    • Gina Loukareas says

      Liz is on vacation and will be back to answer questions later this week. Thanks so much for your patience!

    • Liz Weston says

      It is fraud, and it likely won’t work, since people under 23 generally can’t achieve independent status that would allow them to get financial aid regardless of their parents’ financial situation.