Unfortunately, the cost of college keeps rising. While you don’t necessarily need a degree to succeed in your career, many people see still some type of higher education as the key to success later in life. If you are pinning your hopes for future success on the outcome of attending college, then there’s a good chance that you will need help from student loans.
However, many people are reluctant to take on additional debt, even in the name of a better education and the possibility of a better life. There is a good reason for this. Bondage to debt is increasingly becoming an issue of national importance, and with student debt at more than $1 trillion, it’s clear that an entire generation of young adults could be crippled by the new reality.
If you want to reduce your reliance on student debt while in college, here are a few things to consider:
Can You Go To a Cheaper School?
First of all, it’s important to realize that you don’t need to get into an elite — and expensive — school to get a good education and succeed. Sometimes it makes sense to go with the best bang for your educational buck. A public university in your state of residence can save a great deal of money, and put you on the right track.
Another consideration is whether or not you will need a graduate degree to really succeed. Some majors require that you continue beyond a four-year degree to really do well. You can consider going to a less prestigious school for your undergraduate work, and then going to a “better” school for your final degree. Also, consider starting at a two-year school and then transferring to a four-year school to finish. You can usually save by looking at cheaper schools to start, and it doesn’t have to hold you back if you make the most of your college experience.
Save Up For College
Next, consider saving up for college. If you are a parent, it’s never too early to open a college savings account for your child. We’ve been contributing to a 529 for our son for years. Even our son is on the act, contributing to a savings account regularly and he’s just started contributing to a Roth IRA with earnings from his salary as an assistant with my home business, and he’s 11 years old. Planning for the long-term can be one way to reduce the need for student debt later. Even if you have to get student loans, you won’t have to borrow as much.
Look for Scholarships and Grants
If you qualify for grants, make sure to apply for them. Fill out your FAFSA so you can get what you are eligible for in terms of subsidized student loans, grants, and work study programs.
You can also look for scholarships. My parents told me from a young age that I would be responsible for my own tuition, so I knew that I needed to do well in school and get involved in helpful extracurricular activities and service projects if I wanted to succeed in qualifying for scholarships. Try to qualify for scholarships and grants, even as you save up.
Get a Job
Another option is to get a job during college. If you have a part-time job, your need for students loans is diminished. You can do even better if you get on-campus jobs that can boost your finances. My work in the cafeteria meant a free meal each day. When I was a resident advisor, my housing was paid for. These types of jobs can help you reduce your need for student loans without putting undue pressure on your academics.
With the right combination of strategies, it should be possible for you to reduce your reliance on student loans for college.