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How 3 Students Got an Education on the Cheap

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Because she was undecided about a career, she viewed student loans as a risk — debt without the guarantee of a job.

Instead, Lakenen became an electrical apprentice. Her father, a former ironworker and now president of the local steelworkers union, suggested the apprenticeship. She gets paid competitive wages to work full-time as an electrician, but she didn’t have any electrical skills going in.

“Everything I learned was on the job,” Lakenen says. “It’s hands-on, it’s interactive.”

As total U.S. student debt approaches $1.5 trillion, low-cost higher education options like apprenticeships are compelling for students who want to train for a career without taking out loans.

In addition to apprenticeships, students can save money by taking...

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