For the first time in this nation's history, total student loan debt has surpassed total credit card debt.
This staggering statistic won't surprise parents who plan to help their
children pay for a college education.
As parents and students are stretched financially, some panic. Others get creative looking for ways to avoid taking on debt.
Zachary Freeman, a student at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, did the unimaginable -- receiving enough scholarships to completely pay for his freshman year.
And he's documented his process in a book so other students can duplicate his success.
Freeman thought his chances of receiving college scholarships were sidelined after a sports injury during his senior year of high school. This star quarterback was rushed into emergency knee surgery and didn't return to the field for the rest of the season.
Determined to forgo student loans to pay for his education, he did his
research and applied for more than 40 scholarships. Ten were awarded to Freeman. They came from various organizations in Middle Tennessee including Masonic lodges, electric cooperatives, family foundations, and corporate associations.
Instead of going to football games and parties, Freeman often gave up his weekends to write scholarship letters.
"Getting a debt free education is a blessing, but it's tough. It takes a lot
of effort," he said. "For a few weeks, I worked on scholarship applications every night."
Freeman is spreading the word in his book, "Free Money Please," a step-by-step guide to college financial aid. Freeman introduces students and parents to the college application process, giving practical tips and advice on searching for scholarships, filling out the FAFSA, and managing deadlines.
"The book teaches students how to manage their finances better, starting with the way they choose a college and financial aid," he said. "Choosing a college is the most important financial choice you make in your lifetime. I choose UTC because of its affordability and quality."
Freeman, a business finance major, enjoyed his first year at UTC. In
addition to full time class work, he travels and speaks to different groups around the area about his experience.
"I went from just being the kid who financed his college education to
writing a book about it, and now I'm speaking about it," Freeman said. "I don't know where it's going to go from here, but I'm definitely excited to share with students, parents, and guidance counselors unique and interesting away to pay for college."
The book is available on his website, freemoneyplease.com, and on Amazon.com.