student loan debt

Student Loan Debt, Part II: 10 Ways to Avoid It

This is the second of a 2-part series on student loan debt.

Read Student Loans Part I: 10 Things to Consider Before Getting One.

College students often accept student loans without thinking about the financial responsibility that comes with them.

Ask yourself, “Will I be able to afford these payments after I graduate? What if I don’t get a job right away, how will I make the payments? Do I want to be saddled with all this student loan debt for 10 years or more?”

 

student loan debt

 

Here are 10 ways you can cut down or eliminate student loan debt:

1.Start the college savings mindset early. Parents should set up a college saving fund as early as possible, but at least by Kindergarten. Even contributing a small amount can compound over the years.

Although 89% of parents expect their child will attend college and benefit from that education, just 48% are saving for that goal.

 

2.Fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). You may be surprised by how many grants (that you don’t pay back) and work-study options you have.  Be sure to follow all deadlines and apply as early as possible.

But also be careful when you get the results, it may say you qualify for federal “aid”. Federal loans are often called “aid,” but they are not grants—they must be repaid.

You want to look for the words – “grants” or “work-study” – both of which do not need to be repaid.

 

3.Work at least part-time. Depending on the results of your FAFSA, you may realize you don’t qualify for enough grants or on-campus work study to meet your needs. But a word of warning: If you do receive financial aid, be careful how much you earn at an off-campus job. Financial aid could be reduced if you earn more than $6,400 in the 2015-16 academic year.

 

4.Apply for scholarships. According to College Planning Services, which helps families develops college funding strategies, there are $46 billion in college scholarships awarded each year by the Department of Education and another $35 million awarded each year by private companies, foundations and civil groups.

Scholarships are not just awarded for high academic achievement, but also for athletes, creative talents, community service, and minorities.

Ask someone to help you write your compelling story and send it to every scholarship opportunity that fits you.

 

5.Take advantage of college classes while still in high school. Most programs pay tuition and loan you the books. Talk to your high school guidance counselor about how to plan for this.

 

6.Consider attending a community college for two years and transferring to a four-year college or university to complete a bachelor’s degree. This strategy is often referred to as a 2 + 2 plan. If you go this route you must be sure the community college has a direct transfer agreement with the state college or university you want to attend later. If not, you might lose credits when you transfer.

In addition, if you must take remedial courses, do it at the community college level the summer after you graduate from high school. Don’t pay for remedial courses that will not count toward graduation at a 4-year college. Most colleges count remedial courses as any course that starts with a “0”.

 

7.Live frugally. Create a budget. Ask parents how to create a budget or use one of the many online such as Mint.com. List monthly income sources, including savings, wages and parental allowances, and then write down estimated expenses for the month. Take costs such as school supplies, food outside your meal plan, personal care items and laundry into account.

Ask college friends how much they spend to help you guess your expenses. This benefits both you and your parents when you can plan for monthly expenses.

 

8.Live at home or off-campus. Yes, we know most students want that dorm experience, but after you’ve dealt with it a semester or two, you will be glad to have privacy again. If you are required to live in the dorm freshman year, then plan to live off-campus the rest of the time. You can get several roommates, rent a room in a house, or rent a basement or studio apartment – all of which can be cheaper than dorm and meal plans on campus.

 

9.Apply for paid internships in the summer. Work with your college Career Center to apply for paid internships after your freshman year in your major field. This is the best way to know if you are interested in your chosen major as a career path and earn money at the same time.

Be sure to keep your GPA above 3.0 because internships are competitive.

 

10.Accelerate graduation. If you are going full-time, start your first semester with the discipline to do 15 credit hours. To graduate within four years, you will have to take at least 15 credits per semester.

However, most colleges charge a set rate for full time students and the definition of “full time” varies but generally means from 12 – 18 or 19 credit hours. One of the best kept secrets is to map out a plan to take 18 hours at least 6 semesters (generally not your first semester).

If you can, it’s like getting one semester free (6 semesters x 3 additional credits over 15 = 18 credits or the equivalent of one semester!) And if you plan it right, you may be able to graduate a semester early or do a paid internship while completing the last few classes.

 

A college education is probably the second largest purchase you’ll make in your lifetime next to a home. You’ll want to be prudent about the decisions you make. Doing your own research (click on the links in this blog) and planning out your course of action will significantly reduce the amount of student loans, if any, you have to obtain.

 

 

No matter which major you select or how much you earn in your field, what really matters in the end is how much you keep… And keep some of it in gold.

Let me show you how.

Believe in the best. Prepare for the worst.

Let’s talk.

good money

 

 

 

 

 

757-310-9175

jameslawson.ws@gmail.com

 

P.S. Some of the strategies in this blog were suggested by my wife who was a university administrator for many years. She witnessed first-hand the problems students encountered with too much student loan debt.

 

Disclaimer:

I am an independent affiliate and not a financial planner or investment advisor. The information on this site is for educational purposes and not intended to give financial, investment, legal, or tax advice. The postings on my blog are my personal opinions and do not represent the positions, strategies and opinions of any company.

 

 

 

2 Comments

  • Linda Bomba

    Reply Reply January 17, 2016

    Another way you can pay for a college education is find a full time job with tuition benefits I work full time and finished my degree they pay for 80% of my education and I will always be grateful to them for that 🙂 I graduated debt free!

    • jameslawson.ws@gmail.com

      Reply Reply January 17, 2016

      Exactly!! That is actually the best way to do it if you can find a company that has those benefits. It’s getting harder to find companies with those benefits.

      Congratulations Linda on graduating debt free!!

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