There has been an increase in the rate of student debt annually and the average amount of debt carried by each student that has loans is a staggering almost $30,000. This is a lot of debt to start your post-college life off with.

College expenses continue to soar, so it often feels like there is no way around taking out expensive student loans; however, there are ways to reduce and sometimes eliminate the need for college loans. Below, we’ll take a look at 6 ways to avoid and reduce student loan debt.

Apply for FAFSA

For many students trying to afford steep university costs, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an important stepping stone. The amount of aid, if any, that you can receive through FAFSA is entirely based on how much your family income is; you should be sure to apply for FAFSA whether you think you qualify or not and let them make the decision.

Applying for FAFSA as soon as possible is also very important. You can submit your application up to a year prior to when you plan on beginning school and this can be beneficial because if you qualify for any financial assistance you’ll be able to see what schools can offer which amounts of assistance; this can make your school choice easier if affordability is a big issue.

Working Before and Through School

It’s understandable that you don’t want to work while also studying and working hard through college, however, if you want to avoid or reduce your student loans it may be unavoidable. If you choose to get a part-time job during school, trust that you won’t be alone in doing this. Working hard on saving money now will pay off later after graduation. Be sure to also take advantage of summer vacation time when school is out and you’ll have more time to dedicate towards working and setting aside money for the next semester.

Take AP Courses

Take advantage of any AP (advanced placement) courses that they have available for you if you are in high school. Some AP courses taken during high school along with the yearly AP exam can go towards course credits in college you select. More credits equal less time you need to spend at school, which in turn allows for less money being spent.

Skip the Private Universities

It can be alluring when you think about attending a private university, but the truth is they tend to be much more expensive than community colleges or state schools. Going to a less expensive local school should be considered even if it is just to begin with and get transferred later to a private school in order to complete your education. This is a way of saving money.

Look Into Scholarships and Grants

There are a TON of scholarships and grants out there, so don’t feel limited if you didn’t qualify already by your grades, extracurricular achievements, or financial situation. Google local scholarships or grants that are available for incoming students; narrowing your search by school and looking into the programs each school you’re considering has to offer can also prove to be a big benefit. You’re almost guaranteed to find something you qualify for; it may not be a hefty amount, but every little bit counts when you’re trying to reduce or avoid student loan debt.

Check Out Loan Forgiveness Programs

If you have debt once you’ve finished school, you may qualify for a loan forgiveness program. these programs are typically funded federally and they are only available to certain career fields which are generally teaching or public service related and only after you have been in your line of work for a certain period of time.