This is a guest article by Wayne Lee. If you are interested in contributing to Debt RoundUp, please follow our guidelines.
Millions of Americans graduate college owing tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt, and some owe considerably more than that. For many students, this is debt that will take them years or even decades to pay off. There are even some individuals who are still paying on student loans well into their retirement years! The burden of this debt can indeed be long-term, and it can erode your quality of life as well as your ability to save for the future. While some Americans simply have no ability to pay for college without at least some student loans, the fact is that many students actually can finish college without any debt at all if they apply the right strategy.
Minimize Living Expenses
Debt is typically accrued when your personal expenses exceed your personal income. Many students rush blindly into college only considering how they will pay for their tuition and living expenses on a per-semester basis. As long as they obtain enough student loans to cover their expenses, they are fine. The fact is, however, that if you minimize your living expenses, you are taking one step toward minimizing or even eliminating debt during your college years. Consider factors like living at home with your family instead of in a dorm, commuting to school with a friend or using public transportation and other affordable transportation methods. It may be more convenient to live on campus and to drive around in your own car, but there are considerable expenses associated with these luxuries.
In addition, consider how you can generate income during your college years. Your goal may to graduate early and begin your career quickly, but this may actually be the more costly route to take. Consider how your college expenses would be spread out over a longer period of time if you attended classes part-time and worked part-time. Your tuition and fees will be lower and more manageable each semester, and you will be earning income to pay for living expenses and your tuition. In addition, you may actually enjoy greater earning power after your graduate if you find an entry-level job in your field of study. This will give you experience in the field that other new graduates may lack.
Choose Affordable Education
Many students make an effort to get into the best college that they can. There is indeed some notoriety associated with top colleges and universities, and if you aspire to be a CEO of a major corporation, to run for political office or to be a brain surgeon one day, attending a school with the highest reputation may be worthwhile for you. However, if you intend on working in social services, early childhood education or another field wear the earning potential and job opportunities will not necessarily be decided by where you earn your degree, paying for a pricey degree may simply be a waste of money. Options such as an online accounting degree as well as other online degrees help to reduce total college expenses.
Even when you choose to attend the most affordable college or university that is suitable for the career path that you want to follow, you should consider different ways to earn affordable credit hours. Many colleges and universities allow you to transfer a considerable number of credits into the school, and these can be applied to your degree. CLEP credit, community college course credit and other similar types of credit may be available at a considerable discount compared to the per-credit-hour rate at your college or university. By maximizing the use of transfer credits from more affordable sources, you can easily enjoy savings on the total cost of your college education.
It may be nice to enjoy the traditional college experience of living on campus in the dorm, taking a full load of classes each semester and spending the summers lounging by the pool back at your parents’ house. However, with the rising cost of a college education and the growing focus on the burden of student loan debt on graduates, the more realistic solution for today’s students is to follow these tips and attempt to graduate debt-free.
This article was written by Wayne Lee, a personal finance advisor and blogger.