4 Ways To Continue Your Education Without Paying For Grad School

By Bethy Hardeman

How much is $27,523?

It's not the price of a brand new car or an around-the-world vacation package. According to data from Credit Karma, this is the average student loan debt among its members between the ages of 18 to 34 with student loan debt.

If you're thinking about continuing your education, your student debt may make you think twice, but it doesn't have to take over your life. Think outside the higher-education box. Check out these four ways to continue your education that don't require you to pay for grad school.

1. Enroll in the “University of YouTube.”

It seems like you can't scroll through your social media feed without seeing a video about the latest DIY fad — Are Mason jars still a thing? — or a “yummy” three-minute recipe. And let's be honest, we've all spent more than our fair share of time admiring videos of the latest fashion, makeup trends or nail art. But did you know there are now videos on every subject from math to psychology to the sciences?

My favorites are the step-by-step tutorials from Khan Academy and the inspirational talks from TED. Become that expert you always wanted to be.

2. Take some classes online.

Always wanted to go to Harvard or say you studied at the French Sorbonne? Many prestigious universities around the world are now offering their college courses online for free on edX. The site has hundreds of courses in subjects like computer science, math and the humanities taught by actual faculty and staff from each respective university.

If you're looking to boost your resume for a job application or promotion, edX also provides certificates after you complete your course for $49 or $100, most commonly.

If learning another language is your thing, look into the free Duolingo app. Duolingo gamifies its lessons, which makes learning another language more fun and engaging. Each lesson corresponds to different sets of vocabulary or language rules, requiring you to match words, type out translations and speak into the microphone. Duolingo is also integrated with LinkedIn so you can show off your proficiency, and like edX, it also offers certificates to verify your fluency for $20 to $49.

3. Go back to college, for free!

If you live near a university, sit in on some lectures and “audit” the class. While you won't earn any academic credit, some universities allow you to audit classes for free, so you can save some serious money. Upcoming courses and lecture hall locations are often available online in the course catalog. Unlike the undergrads, you won't have to worry about writing papers or taking those exams. Lucky you.

Can't make it to a classroom? Many universities record their lectures and talks and make them available to the public. It's as easy as searching online for the university's podcast or video library. The iTunes U app also has a collection of over one million lectures, videos, books and course materials from universities and even cultural institutions like the Smithsonian Libraries and the Library of Congress, all available at your fingertips for free.

4. Ask your employer for some new opportunities.

Many companies have started to make learning a priority by providing their employees tablets or e-readers loaded with books, hosting lunch and learns with different leaders, or even paying for you to attend conferences and classes. For example, Credit Karma provides a stipend for professional learning and development to employees each year, which can be used to cover the costs of any fees, travel or learning materials for conferences, trainings or certifications.

Don't be afraid to ask your manager or employer about any trainings or mentorship programs that you can take advantage of. You should never be afraid to ask for more opportunities. The worst thing that can happen isn't getting turned down, but hitting the point when you're no longer learning or growing.

Bottom Line

When we think about our personal goals, we often think about how fit we could be or how much money we'd like to save. Don't get me wrong, these goals are meaningful, but you shouldn't forget about developing yourself either. Learning some new skills can help you perform better at your current role, open up new opportunities and even allow you to meet new people. With so many free ways to get started, you have no excuse not to.