How One College Student Beat Tuition Costs

A new book offers advice for college students looking to save their parents’ retirement and financial well-being.

Meet Zac Bissonnette, a graduate of the University of Massachusetts and the author of the book Debt-Free U: How I Paid For an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching Off My Parents. Bissonnette’s tale is an eye-opening one – and a must-read for students looking to save every penny they can on tuition.

The cost of higher education is rising – even as the economy remains a tailspin. The average four-year cost for a top-flight school like Harvard or Stanford is almost $200,000. And even a solid state school like UCLA or the University of Michigan will set students back almost $100,000.

So how did Bissonnette come out ahead?

Let’s take a look at Bissonnette’s results and what he was (or wasn’t) working with. He graduated with no student loan debt, no financial support from parents and no scholarships. Or, as the author describes it in explaining his book:

"[This book] is for families who can find fifteen dollars per week in cost cuts…and students who are willing to work hard — thirty hours per week, on average, including vacations — college is affordable: without any savings, student loans, Parent PLUS loans, retirement looting, organ sales, or heroin dealing."

Bissonnette touts some simple concepts, but concepts that might have gone out of style in recent decades. He advocates picking a cheaper state school than an expensive private one; working up to 30 hours a week while you’re at school to help pay the freight; and a “no excuses” mentality that stresses hard work, studying and keeping ahead of your academic workload.

The debt questions chiefly rest on two themes: Don’t take out a student loan and choose a state school over a private one. The author notes that public college students graduate with significantly less debt than their private school counterparts (UMass is ranked fifth in the nation among big schools that graduate students with the lowest debt, according to U.S. News & World Report.)

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