Student loan debt is one of the biggest things holding back young people. Loans can accrue interest for years before they start to pay for themselves, and with many careers requiring multiple degrees, it can take years of work just to get in the black. This prevents people from putting together savings or investing. But paying out of pocket is impossible for most people.
The solution isn't to give up on getting educated. Instead, look into these options for earning money to earn degrees, rather than going into debt just to get into the career you want.
1. Work for AmeriCorps
This federal program encourages Americans to engage in service work, for nonprofits, schools, and community and faith-based groups nationwide. It's for people with a passion for service, since the stipend you live on while working isn't much, but the work you'll do is rewarding and instructive all in itself. The education benefits are what's really of interest to the collegiate-bound, though; you'll earn $5,000 toward college for two years of work, enough to cover two years of community college at most schools.
2. Become an Apprentice
The United States is sorely lacking workers in certain skilled fields, and the US Department of Labor aims to remedy this by funding apprenticeship programs in which you work (and get paid) while learning a trade. You can sign up to apprentice in anything from electrical work, to pipefitting, to carpentry, and earn a living wage (far more than you'd get paid at a part-time gig in college) while earning your credential from the DOL. After four to six years, you'll be prepared for a career making an estimated $50,000 a year, with no student loans to repay.
3. Get a Paid Internship
Many internships are aimed specifically at college students, and as a bonus, you can often earn college credit while working and learning on the job. You'll have to wade through a sea of unpaid internships to find the good ones, but if you're diligent in applying, you could earn thousands a month (and add to your resume).
4. Join the Military
If you're open to working in the Armed Forces, you can get paid to serve your country while also working toward a degree (or earning for college down the road). The G.I. Bill and other programs help veterans pay for college or reimburse them for tuition when they, often along with a housing allowance. The Reserve Educational Assistance Program or REAP and the National Call to Service Program are just a few of the many ways the government encourages veterans (and active members of the military) to get an education, and the skills you learn in military training can be applicable in a civilian career as well.
5. Apply for The Thiel Fellowship
This one doesn't really belong on the list; after all, it's more of a way to get paid to skip college than to attend. But if you can earn one of these, you won't need a degree in the long run. Billionaire Peter Thiel's fellowship program pays promising minds to drop out and pursue an innovative goal through "self-directed learning and independent thought." 20-25 are given out a year, but the process is very selective, so make sure your idea is one that's worth the dough.