How to say no to student loans, yes to college and saving money

Today, Money College introduces Susan Beacham to our team. A national expert on money and family finance, she is the founder of

Money Savvy Generation, which has helped more than 1 million kids get smart about spending, saving, investing and donating. Her monthly column for Money College is "The Money Savvy Parent."

Is it impossible for a child to graduate from college free and clear of debt? Nobody even talks about a "debt-free" matriculation. Most of us just assume that graduation and debt go hand-in-hand.

According to the Project on Student Debt, the average debt level for graduating seniors with student loans rose to $23,200 in 2008 – a 24% increase from $18,650 in 2004. What's more, 67% of students graduating from four-year colleges and universities have student debt. Add to this debt load the inevitable credit card debt kids accumulate and well, it's getting harder to defend the decision to get a college education if the price is really that high – especially in light of the grim prospects of getting a decent job once you graduate.