According to Consumer Reports, student loan borrowers can look into requesting a tuition payment plan from their respective schools. 

Cash-strapped college students who don’t want to take out more student loans may be able to take advantage of an alternative. They can contact their school and request a tuition payment plan, according to Consumer Reports.

Tuition payment plans allow students to stretch their payment out over longer periods of time. Not only do most schools offer these types of plans, apparently students who apply have a good chance of qualifying.

For many families, it isn’t feasible to make a large upfront payment in the tens of thousands or more. But smaller payments over time could allow them to plan for the expense of college costs and avoid taking on additional student loan debt. It may be a smarter way to pay for college for a student or family with the income to meet the obligation over time.

Many college payment plans don’t charge interest, but they do require a one-time signup fee that is around $50 or $100, Consumer Reports noted. Students would pay far more money in interest if they took out a loan instead.

These payment plans vary in length; some plans allow payments to be made on a monthly basis. Other plans require payments to be made three to four times a semester.

For instance, Temple University allows students to make 10 monthly, interest-free payments for the following school year. New York University offers a deferred payment plan to all undergraduate students. Students pay the first half of their tuition bill in August, the next 25 percent in October, and the final 25 percent in November.

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Other schools, like the University of Connecticut and the University of Michigan, require students to begin making payments for the fall semester in early summer.

The enrollment dates depend on the school, but most require borrowers to sign up at least a few months before the next semester begins. Students should verify the number of payments and the due dates before enrolling in a payment plan.

Payment plans could be helpful for many students, but they may not entirely eliminate the need to take out loans. In a recent survey on college pricing, the College Board found that the average in-state tuition at a public university is $9,970. For a private university, the average tuition amount is $34,740. Those figures don’t include room and board, books and supplies, or transportation costs. If costs at your college are too high, you can also choose a school where students tend to graduate with the least debt, which has been discussed by The Student Loan Report before.

With tuition expenses that high, many students may find that avoiding student loans entirely won’t be an option. Given how expensive student loans can be, a tuition plan as well as other preferred forms of financial aid may make a deadly combination. Pairing a payment plan scholarships or grants could help reduce the need for loans at high-cost schools. Scholarships do not require repayment, contrary to student loans. This combination would also be a welcome alternative to paying interest on your education down the road.