How Pay for College or Medical School Without Loans

Four university students on campus

Henrik Sorensen / Digital Vision / Getty Images

While some medical careers are available with high school or undergraduate education, becoming a doctor or advanced practice nurse requires many years of post-secondary education. You may be wondering what options there are other than student loans, which may take many years to pay back.

Loan-Free Ways to Finance College or Medical School

Here are some additional resources for financing your undergraduate or medical schooling that won’t bury you in debt:

  1. Scholarships: You don’t have to make top grades to get a scholarship, although there are more options for those who do. Scholarships are offered for a variety of factors in addition to academic performance, such as minority status, your field of study, or even overcoming adversity. Academic institutions are not the only organizations that offer scholarships. Check with local corporations, your bank, your local utility companies, your parents' employers, or even your church to see what scholarships are offered and how to apply. Sometimes it's as simple as filling out a form and writing an essay or meeting other circumstantial requirements.
  2. Grants and Awards: Check with your university or medical school to see what awards are offered. Alumni will often set up awards for students who meet certain criteria, including anything from grades, athletics, volunteer work, to whatever the grantor wished to recognize with the award. Additionally, if you come from a low-income family, you may qualify for federal grants to help pay for your education. Grants typically do not have to be repaid unless you lose eligibility, such as by withdrawing early from the school program.
  3. Military: The military will pay for your health career and help you get the required training if you’re willing to serve the country for a few years in return. The amount of education you receive will determine the number of years you have to “pay back” in service as an active duty military physician.
  4. U.S. Health Service Corps: This is a great way to fund your medical education if you’re seeking to be a physician or nurse. The National Health Service Corps is a government program that will pay most or all of your tuition in exchange for 2 to 4 years of service in a medically underserved area of the country. If you're willing to relocate to a more rural area to work for a few years, this could be an excellent option.
  5. Employer Reimbursement: Hospitals that employ nurses or doctors will often offer student loan forgiveness as part of their financial package. Therefore, if student loans were your only option on the front end, and you ended up graduating with a load of debt, your new employer may be able to help alleviate some of that financial burden.

Other Ways to Minimize Tuition Costs

If for some reason the above aids do not apply to you, or if you need to minimize your tuition costs even further, there are additional ways to save thousands of dollars on your college costs, if you plan ahead and make smart educational decisions while in high school and college, including:

  • Consider putting college off for a year or two and working full-time to save money for your tuition.
  • Work either full- or part-time and go to school full- or part-time while paying for classes as you go. Many schools will give you a bit of a discount for paying cash.
  • Start with a two-year degree at your local community college, which is typically much cheaper, and then transfer to a four-year university.
  • Consider going to college overseas. In some countries such as Iceland, international students can attend public university for free (although they may need to pay a small registration fee, usually less than $100.)
Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Department of Education. Federal grants are money to help pay for college or career school. 2021.

  2. Air Force Medical Service. The 2019 Air Force Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) fact sheet for medical school. Published July 25, 2018.

  3. National Health Service Corps. NHSC scholarship program overview. 2021.

  4. National Center for Education Statistics. Table 330.30.Average undergraduate tuition, fees, room, and board rates for full-time students in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by percentile of charges and control and level of institution: Selected years, 2000-01 through 2017-18. Published November 2018.

  5. The Icelandic Centre for Research. Studying in Iceland. 2021.