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תואר צילום: ISTOCK

It shouldn't have to cost a fortune to add a college or graduate degree to your resume, should it? Of course not. Unfortunately, too many people fall into the trap of assuming that it's necessary to shell out a ton of money just to get a respectable diploma. The truth it, it's possible to earn a job-ready degree, improve your lot in life, and fully enjoy the experience. That's because there are several sensible, realistic ways to complete a four-year or graduate program no matter how big your savings account is. The beauty of the whole process is that every worthwhile degree eventually pays for itself in the form of higher income and better job choices. Here are four ways to end up wearing a cap and gown that call for determination and discipline, but not for a gigantic bank account.

Attend a Community College for 2 Years

Community colleges, two-year institutions that are an ideal springboard to a larger college or university, represent one of the best bargains in the world of education. For a fraction of what you'd pay at a four-year school, you can explore subjects in multiple areas of study, develop effective study habits, and come up with a long-term career plan.

Pay for an MBA the Smart Way

If you're one of the thousands of MBA (master's in business administration) candidates looking for a financial solution to grad-school expenses, private lenders are a smart bet. Not only are MBA loans priced competitively, but the degree itself is viewed as a common bridge between college and a rewarding career. What's more, when you opt for a private lender, you can shop around for the best interest rates, terms, and other loan features.

Opt for an Online-Only Diploma

In the digital age, online schooling is finally coming into its own. For students, that can mean being able to study from anywhere, choosing self-paced degrees, and, best of all, obtaining four-year degrees at a very low cost. Online learning options have grown a lot in the past five years. In fact, many of the oldest universities now offer remote (computer-based) matriculation in most major fields of study. Online based educations also help bridge the gap between the place in which you reside and the place in which the best school for you is located. If you decide to go the online route, be sure to check out each school's accreditation status and look for programs that allow you to pay for one or two courses at a time. That way, should you decide to switch to a traditional, in-person institution, the financial repercussions won't sting too badly.

Use a Grant-Finding Service

It's important to be careful when hunting for grant money. First, make certain to vet any agency or company that you consider. There are reputable players in the very competitive niche of grant-shopping, but there are also a few unsavory organizations. Second, do research on what kinds of grants are available in your field of study so you can more readily hone in on a specific niche. When it comes to earning a grant, the two most essential things are finding one that's available, and writing an impressive application essay. A reputable grant-finding company can help you with both of those tasks.