I have a degree from UCLA, but never lived on campus or did the typical college life. I saved a lot of money, but missed out on a great experience. This is how I got a college degree without going into debt.
My two main recommendations for financing your education without debt are to first find a local or community college to do your first two years of any four year degree program. Second, look first at local state colleges that offer lower tuition to residents and may have local campuses, offering you the same degree as a four year residential student.
For example, I grew up in Philadelphia, where Penn State was the big deal school to attend. Some of my friends from high school went away to Penn State in upstate Pennsylvania, lived on campus for four years and got a degree. Other friends spent their first two years at Montgomery Country Community College, then took classes at Penn State’s Ogontz campus in Suburban Philadelphia while living at home and working. They too received those same degrees from Penn State, except they probably spent 1/10th as much.
Many great state schools have special programs with local community colleges. This was my path. UCLA had a program with Pierce College, part of the Los Angeles Community College system. Pierce offered special courses and students could enroll in this program to do their first two years at Pierce and then transfer to UCLA for the final two years, having taken all the correct courses to be right on track. It required a minimum grade point average, but really mapped out the path to do your first two years while saving money at Pierce and then transfer to UCLA.
As a California resident, I was entitled to lower tuition rates, and I believe Pierce cost about $22. per unit, a substantial savings over taking those first two years at UCLA itself or even Pierce’s out of state tuition. Additionally, when I did transfer to UCLA, I was able to pay instate tuition rates, at that time they were about $3000 per year as a full time student, about 30% of what out of state students paid.
There is also a whole world of grants and scholarships, work with your high school counselor and college financial aid office to find out more. Also have your parents check their places of work, many businesses offer scholarships to employee children, also any social organizations they are active with, also churches or temples may offer scholarships as well.