Graduating debt-free

While looking at UCF’s website today, I noticed that they state that 50% of their graduates graduate debt-free. I’ve been running the numbers and am not sure how this is possible. The estimated cost of attendance is almost 23k a year. Assuming you have Florida prepaid, and qualify for bright futures medallion, that cuts about 175% of the cost of tuition from 22k. So you’re left with about 12k. If you make 5k from work, there is still 7k left over. How are half the students at UCF graduating without any debt? If your parents already cover your tuition, I don’t see half of them covering another 5-10k. Am I missing something? Are the cost of attendances estimating personal expenses and transportation and food too high? I’m not factoring in scholarships because they are not guaranteed and most count for only one year.

Some scholarships are competitive but renewable. The higher your stats the better your odds, students admitted to Burnett Honors often have very nice merit packages that are renewable (there are also stand alone Burnett scholarships for $2,000, which are then linked to projects for year 2-3-4 such as study abroad or research). Many Florida students in Honors choose UCF because their scholarship makes it cheaper than UF.

Instate tuition costs are under $6,500 and many students without a scholarship commute and pack a lunch, saving about $5,500 to $6,000 in housing and $4,000 in food for the year.
Some live in the dorms just one year and share an apartment with friends for cheaper than dorm costs.

Paying for college is supposed to be from past and current income, so that prepaid is the past contribution and current income means parents may contribute $500 a month or so.

Students can typically earn $3,500 during the school year and about $4,000 working full time over the summer (I realize that with this economy, it may not be possible right now).

Food is usually the meal plan: you could compare Fall All Access 5 days, Fall All Access 7 days, etc. (Basically Fall All access 7 days is the best deal but may not be necessary if she doesn’t eat in the dining hall on Saturday/Sunday because she’s out with friends. Students rarely eat breakfast in the dining hall.) After freshman year, these costs go down drastically - you can cut these costs in 2 easily.

Transportation: will they fly? Or will you drive your student?
Miscellaneous: How frugal are they?
Books: rent rather than buy books (except foundational texts for your major).

Ultimately, half the students manage to graduate debt free but despite all this, half… don’t. If you take on debt, know that as a freshman a student can take 5.5K in debt, that’s it, and they don’t have to take ALL of it, they can take the subsidized part only (if it’s offered). If you can manage with the least amount of debt, it’s still better than the full amount.

I guess if you factor in all the commuter students without room and board or those who live off campus past the 1st year, I can see how it’s possible. My brother has taken out loans, but with bright futures I am hoping to either go without loans or the 3.5k subsidized loan. I may take them out but pay them off right away. Definitely makes more sense now.

1 Like

I don’t understand your math with FPP. It would depend on your plan, but a popular plan is (was) a 4+1, which is 4 years of tuition and one year of a dorm fee (I don’t think a meal plan was included). If you then get ~$7k from Bright Futures, you are covered for the first year plus.

But leaving out the FPP, many student could still stretch the Bright Futures to cover most of the tuition, books and fees. If they can pick up a few minor scholarships (often local scholarships or something from the school, department, church, special interest), it can help. A job can cover room and board.

Many of the Florida public schools do stack awards and allow BF to be used for room and board, study abroad, or any expense.

It can be done, but in most cases it will be a tight budget. If the student has FPP, helps a lot.

1 Like

That makes sense. I think I need to try and look for scholarships. A lot of them seem like a stretch, but maybe there are some good homeschooled ones since I am homeschooled.

1 Like

Apply for freshmen or entrance scholarships within your college (at UCF), email to ask whether they have any for freshmen hoping to major in that college or in your specific major if it’s not obvious; don’t discount the Honors College (depending on your stats). Then, you have all the local scholarships, your GC would probably have a list. Those should help you pay for R&B your first year - although don’t expect more than $1-2,000. But everything helps.

You are homeschooled, but look at the guidance page for your local high school(s). Many have a list of local scholarships you may qualify for. Also check the local paper if you have one. If it has a high school brag page, it may list scholarships given by local businesses this year, and you could apply next year.

I learned of a lot of little scholarships when I went to my daughter’s award night. It was too late for her, but it was pretty obvious that some of these kids had older siblings who’d written essays or submitted art work or photos for local award. Most were $500ish, but some kids had 2-3. If you have a parent in the military, that may open up a lot more to you. There was one given by the Bar Association for a video on ‘safety.’ Three guys made a video on shining a laser at an airplane. It was the stupidest thing I had ever seen, and they won $500; I don’t think anyone else knew about the award and they were the only entry. It was really bad, yet they won.

1 Like