Top 3 Alternatives to Student Loans

The cost of education has increased significantly over the last decade, leaving many students with no other option but to take out loans to finance their education. While getting a student loan is a great way to pay for college, it has a very big drawback, which is that it leaves you in debt. According to the College Board, 54% of bachelor’s degree students who graduated in the 2020-2021 academic session left school with an average of $29,100 in education debt. 

In this article, I discuss three of the best alternatives to student loans.


Scholarships are one of the best alternatives to student loans for post-secondary education funding. Scholarships can either be public or private. Public scholarships are offered by the government, while private scholarships are awarded by organizations, foundations, or individuals. 

The great thing about scholarships is that they do not attract any financial responsibility or debt. 

All scholarship programs are different, and some are more competitive than others. For instance, the  Rhodes Scholarship is awarded to just 32 U.S. students yearly. 

Scholarship programs typically have specific requirements that you’d have to meet before you can apply. Most scholarships fall under one of the following categories.

  • Merit-based — awarded to students based on their academic achievements. 
  • Need-based —- awarded based on a student’s financial status (might include factors like academic performance and extracurricular activities). 
  • Athletic scholarship — awarded based on a student’s athletic ability. 
  • Activity-based scholarship —- awarded to students who are involved in certain clubs, professions, or extracurricular activities. 
  • Identity-based scholarship —- awarded to students who fall under minority or underrepresented groups. 

To give yourself a better chance of landing a scholarship, it’s best to apply for as many scholarships as you can. You must also commit to the process because you will only be selected if your submission stands out among the many applications that are sent in. 


Grants are another great alternative to student loans. Grants can either be federal or private. Federal grants are awarded by the federal government while private grants are provided by private entities like organizations, companies, or even individuals. 

Federal grants are usually offered to students with financial needs, while private grants are given to students by private entities as part of their mission or social responsibilities.

There are various grant opportunities out there, however, as federal grants are more popular, most people do not pay close attention to private grant opportunities. Do your research and apply for as many grant opportunities as you qualify for.

Financial status is the primary determining factor for federal grants, while private grants might consider other factors like ethnic background, academic achievement, course of study, or religion.

Like scholarships, grants do not need to be repaid but certain opportunities might demand a service commitment. For instance, Teach Grant recipients have to teach in an approved school for a minimum of four years. 

Employer-Funded Scholarships 

Some employers award scholarships to their employees, dependents of employees, or children of deceased/retired employees. 

Qualification requirements vary from one organization to the next. Certain factors that are often put into consideration include: 

  • Job performance
  • Academic achievements
  • Employee’s financial status
  • Length of service with the company
  • Course of study
  • Educational institution

Company-funded scholarships can cover tuition and other educational expenses. 

Certain organizations do not offer outright scholarships. Instead, they provide educational benefits to qualified employees. One such benefit is tuition reimbursement. Unlike scholarship funds, employees are expected to pay their academic fees and if they meet the reimbursement requirements, the sum is refunded to them. 

Check with your organization to know if they have such employee benefits and if they do, thoroughly go through the requirements to determine if you are qualified. 

Certain employers may require scholarship beneficiaries to work with the company for a specified period after completing their education. So, be sure to check the scholarship terms before applying.