There are two words that can strike fear into the heart of every college-bound high schooler and college student: student loans. Nearly 70 percent of students who graduated in 2013 had some amount of student loan debt, and the average debt was more than 28,000 dollars, according to the Institute for College Access and Success. The idea of starting your career deep in debt can be pretty stressful. If you’re about to apply to or attend college, or if you have a child that will be a student, there are ways to keep student loans to a minimum and graduate without a lot of debt.
Part of the stress of student loans lies in the amount of uncertainty they bring. In most cases, people go to college to increase their earnings potential and to find work after school. But, there’s no way to know for sure how much you’ll earn when you graduate.
One way to estimate the amount you can comfortably borrow for college is to look at the average first year salary in your field or industry and commit to borrowing less than that. For example, if the average starting salary in your field is 35,000 dollars, you’ll want to make sure your student debt is well below that amount.
Student loans might get the most attention, but they aren’t the only source of financial aid. The Federal Student Aid program has a number of funding options, including grants, which you don’t have to repay, and work-study, which involves working on or off-campus during the school year. Grants can be more difficult to get than loans, since they are based on need.
It can also be worth your while to consider scholarships. Some schools award scholarships of varying amounts automatically to students based on their test scores or grade point averages. A number of private for or non-profit organizations run scholarship programs that award money to students who have high GPAs, complete a certain amount of community service hours, or stand out in some other way. Although getting a scholarship does take some work and effort, getting money for school that you don’t have to pay back is well worth it.
You can only borrow so much from the Federal student loan program. Some students supplement the loans they get from the government with private loans. While a private loan can seem helpful at the time, it’s usually more risky, as the interest rate can be much higher and can change with the market. Federal loans offer flexible repayment plans, based on your current income, which can make repaying your loans more affordable. Those options aren’t available with private student loans.
Another way to stop student loan stress before it starts is to consider attending a school with a lower price tag. According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition at a private, four-year college in 2014-2015 was more than 31,000 dollars. The average cost of tuition at a two-year school was slightly more than 3,000 dollars and the average cost was slightly more than 9,000 dollars at a public, four-year college. While the private university might have a lot of prestige, you have to ask yourself if going there is worth paying more than three times as much and getting yourself deep into debt.
The team at CESI is committed to helping you make wise financial decisions and to helping you understand how to get out, and stay out of debt. For a free debt analysis, contact us and find out how we can help.
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Consumer Education Services, Inc. (CESI) is a non-profit service provider of comprehensive personal financial education and solutions for all life stages and for all of life’s milestones. Our goal is enhanced economic security for everyone we serve.
CESI is NOT A LOAN COMPANY