The number of people who are paying for their college education long after school has finished is quite frankly astonishing. Approximately seventy percent of students leave college with some form of debt. This is not a problem unto itself. What is problematic is the fact that loan balances on average are climbing for students.
For example, on average, the class of 2014 left school with roughly $33,000 in debt per individual. Not only are fresh graduates finding themselves saddled with more debt per individual (about $5,000 more per student), but they also have to contend with paying interest rates that fall anywhere between 4.7% and 7.2%. All of this information can also be combined with the challenges of the current overall job market.
So, what can you do to pay for college without drowning in debt? Thankfully, there are a variety of viable options available to you.
How to Handle the Payments Themselves
One suggestion virtually everyone can keep in mind involves making the payments. Ensure you can pay at least the minimum every month, including interest and fees.
You should also make it a point to establish savings that can ensure you will be able to keep making student loan payments, if you lose a job after graduating, or are otherwise struggling financially.
If at all possible, pay more than the minimum. Remember that the faster you pay off your student loan debt, the less you are going to have to pay in the long run. This in turn can also benefit vital components of post-graduate life, such as your credit rating.
How to Keep Your Student Loan Debt Down
Focusing on federal student loans is another good way to keep your debt down. Beyond scholarships, wealthy parents, or any savings you had before starting to college, a federal student loan is a good way to get a meaningful amount of money (upwards of $27K over four years of your college education) with very few strings attached.
A federal student loan benefits the student with lower interest rates, fewer fees, and a more appealing degree of flexibility for paying back the loan. You can also try to measure how much you should take out against the starting salary for someone in your field.
Let us take a closer look at other ways to keep your student loan debt down, or how you can avoid it altogether (read more):
Specific Options for Keeping Costs Low
Here are some tangible ideas for you to consider.
Consider Community College
While a certain measure of planning is involved, particularly in terms of deciding when to transfer to a state or private school, community college is a great way to gain credits without spending an arm and a leg. In some cases, you can even shave off community college costs by taking “dual enrollment” or similar courses in high school.
Nonetheless, community college remains both affordable and viable. The more education you can pick up here, the less you’ll have to spend later on
Look at the Least-Expensive Colleges
Look for colleges with a no-loan financial aid policy in place. This may not be your first choice for a school, but it can still give you the result you are looking for with comparatively more manageable costs
Choosing a College Close to Home
There are more options out there for higher education than some people realize. For example, work colleges are a great way to obtain your necessary education, while also avoiding the need for massive student loans. You also have the option of picking a college that is closer to your home. It has been an adage for a long time that students who go to an out-of-state college have to pay more in virtually every regard than students who stay in-state.
This includes student loan debt. We would even suggest looking into any schools that meet your needs but were also attended or worked at by someone in your family. Surprising discounts and even freebies can be extended to students with such connections
Obviously, it would be silly to discuss how to cut down or avoid student loan debt, without mentioning the power of scholarships. Full-tuition scholarships consider merit, the desired area of study in question, the need of the student, and whether or not they have exceptional skills or other qualities.
Finding one is challenging, but there are more out there than you might think. Look into this option with the best schools that suit your goals. Scholarship search engines in general are invaluable at connecting you to ways to pay for more college now while avoiding student loan debt later on
Consider Unique Assistance Options
From military tuition assistance to the benefits of crowdfunding to pay for your college education, consider unique avenues to raise the money you need to pay out-of-pocket
Remember that it is ideal to pay for as much of college out-of-pocket as humanly possible.
Paying out of pocket means avoiding loans, repayment plans, additional fees, and interest rates. Paying out of pocket means that when it is done, it is done.
Coming Up with a Plan
At the end of the day, making a strong plan as early on in your plan to go to college is going to save you a lot of hassle in the future.
Once you know for certain that you want to attend college, there are a lot of different things you can do. Researching all of your higher education options, including community colleges in your area, can help you to narrow things down long before you actually have to make a decision.
A 529 Investment Plan can also help, as it is designed specifically to help people meet education investment goals.
Figuring out where you want to go to college (in-state or out-of-state), having a rough idea of your career path, and working out room, board, and meal costs ahead of your first day can all help you to keep your costs low.
These are only a few of the different ways you can keep yourself from drowning in student loan debt for 10+ years after you graduate.
Image by Vasily Koloda