Career Cost 

Scholarships—your best path to a debt-free education

Unlike student loans, you don’t repay a scholarship. But getting a scholarship isn’t as easy as walking into a bank. You have to apply for and be awarded a scholarship. Some are based purely on need. Others are merit-based and very competitive. The good news is there is a seemingly endless list of scholarships to apply and compete for. The trick is to find scholarships that you qualify for. Ask each school you apply to about scholarships they offer and the deadline for applying for the scholarships. 

Think you won’t qualify for any scholarship? Think again. There are unusual scholarships you’d never dream of: scholarships for tall people, gamers and golf caddies, for example. (Find more at There’s even a scholarship for people who apply for lots of scholarships (the Scholarship for Aggressive Scholarship Applicants).

There are dozens of scholarships for immigrants and first-generation Americans and at least 100 scholarships just for children of members of the military. You can find them at

Here are a few other places to look for scholarships: Cappex, Central Indiana Community Foundation, Chegg,, Scholarship Monkey and Unigo

Income share agreements 

An ISA is a contract that provides funding for college that you repay based on your future salary. They are not student loans. In general, you’ll start repaying an ISA after you leave school and attain a specific income threshold. How much you pay each month, and overall, is spelled out in the agreement. Most schools don’t offer ISAs, but Purdue University is an exception. Its Back a Boiler program has disbursed more than $18 million to almost 1,000 students since the program’s inception. The average award for the program is more than $10,000, with payment terms ranging from seven to 10 years. Note that there aren’t many regulations governing ISAs, so do your homework before agreeing to one.

Did you know?

If you’re looking for clues about how students at various schools do financially, you can check the student loan default rate. That’s the percentage of students at a school who are in default on their student loans. In 2021, the national average is more than 10%, and the average in Indiana is just under 10%, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Indiana has several schools with significantly lower default rates of between 2% and 5%. Those include the main campuses of Indiana and Purdue universities, Valparaiso University, Goshen College and Grace College and Theological Seminary. All of those schools appeared on College Factual’s list of best Indiana colleges for non-traditional students.  

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