Many college graduates today have no choice but to take out student loans to fund their education. The problem? Those loans are often difficult to pay off after graduation. Choosing an in-state public college over a private university could help you complete your studies with less debt -- but so can attending what's known as a work college.
Work colleges, as the name implies, have students work as part of their academic program. By offering free or reduced tuition, these schools are instrumental in helping students graduate without piles of debt.
In some cases, students' earnings are applied to their tuition directly, but in other cases, they get to keep their wages. And while peripheral expenses like fees, room and board, and textbooks generally aren't covered by these work arrangements, students can often borrow money or receive grants to make them manageable.
If the idea of leaving college with minimal debt sounds good to you, then here are eight work colleges you might consider looking into:
1. Alice Lloyd College
Located in Pippa Passes, Kentucky, Alice Lloyd College is a private work college offering free tuition. Students come from one of 108 approved counties and work at least 10 hours a week, often in community service jobs. Room and board, books and supplies, and fees, however, aren't covered in the work program.
2. Berea College
Kentucky-based Berea College is a private liberal arts work college offering free tuition. Students must work between 10 and 20 hours a week on campus, and typically earn $2,000 for the academic year. Registration, housing, meals, and fees aren't free, though.
3. Bethany Global University
Located in Bloomington, Minnesota, Bethany Global undergrads get work experience through training and outreach programs, and then spend 16 months overseas doing missionary work. The annual cost of attendance for students is estimated at under $10,000 a year.
4. Blackburn College
Located in Carlinville, Illinois, Blackburn College awards $5,000 in annual tuition credit to students who participate in its work program. Students work an average of 10 hours a week.
5. College of the Ozarks
College of the Ozarks, also known as Hard Work U, is a private evangelical college in Point Lookout, Missouri. Students are granted free tuition in exchange for 15 hours of work per week, plus two 40-hour workweeks per school year. Room and board and certain fees aren't free at this school.
6. Paul Quinn College
Paul Quinn College is a private, faith-based, four-year liberal arts school located right outside downtown Dallas, Texas. In 2015, it adopted a new financial structure that reduced tuition and fees, thereby allowing students to gain work experience and graduate with under $10,000 of debt.
7. Sterling College
Vermont-based Sterling College charges 20% less for tuition and room and board than other private New England universities. Students typically work 80 hours per semester and graduate with 50% less debt than the national average.
8. Warren Wilson College
Located right outside Asheville, North Carolina, Warren Wilson College mandates that all students get involved in community engagement activities. Students typically put in more than 50,000 volunteer hours per year.
If you're willing to work during your studies, it pays to consider one of the above schools. You can also apply for the Federal Work-Study program, which is available at a large number of colleges nationwide. Not only can working while in school spare you from graduating with a mountain of student debt, but it can also give you valuable experience that's incredibly useful once you enter the working world.