Getting a college education is one effective way to improve your future earning potential. Bachelor’s degree holders, on average, earn more than twice as high what high school diploma holders earn over their careers.
It’s not hard to understand why many students are opting for college, even if it means going deep into debt. As it stands, the total outstanding debt in the United States is $1.4 trillion. And according to the Federal Reserve, the average college debt among student borrowers is $32,731.
But what if you could receive a college degree without owning a dime? Wouldn’t that be a dream come true? Well, it’s possible. But it requires conscientious actions on your path.
That’s why we’ll explore some strategies that can help you avoid student debt.
- Start saving as early as possible.
A college education is expensive. And every dollar you’re able to save will reduce your overall tuition bill.
If possible, get a part-time job with a company that offers some sort of college-saving benefits. This will help reduce the amount you need for college. For instance, Starbucks offers some sort of tuition reimbursement. So do Fiat Chrysler and JetBlue.
Parents that want to help their wards with college cost should also plan way ahead. Some parents even start planning before their kids are born. Most states now offer a 529 plan, which is a tax-advantaged savings plan designed to encourage saving for future education costs.
Remember, saving for college is a long-term strategy. So the sooner you start, the better.
- Excel in high school to be eligible for scholarships
Many schools and programs offer scholarships for students with exceptional academical achievements and solid extracurricular activities in high school. To give you the best shot of being a recipient, give in your best in high school.
What’s more, you also need to be consistent in college because most scholarships require you to maintain at least a 3.0 GPA throughout college, while some require up to 3.5 GPA.
Another benefit of being smart in high school is it makes it possible to take Advanced Placement (AP) classes. This is a great way to earn college credit for free. But make sure you research your preferred college’s AP class policy to ensure your credits will count.
- Choose your college with financial considerations in mind
The cost of college can vary widely – with differences that can exceed several thousands of dollars. That’s why you need to weigh in the cost.
Some schools offer benefits for in-state students. Attending an in-state college can reduce your tuition by up to 50%. What’s more, you might be eligible for some in-state grants. Another option to consider includes the cost of a community college versus a 4-year college.
Attending a college that’s closer to home confers several other benefits. For instance, you can easily live at home while attending college. That way, you drastically cut costs on accommodation and food.
Many students fall into the trap of considering ONLY the college’s reputation when choosing where to study. At the end of the day, ensure that your choice makes financial sense to you.
- Find ways to reduce expenses while in college.
By reducing expenses, you invariable lower the amount you need for college. There are several strategies you can apply to lower expenses. Here are some ideas to consider:
1) Leave your car at home: That way, you can cut back on gas, parking passes, and tickets, car insurance, maintenance, and more.
2) Make your rent cheaper: This starts by choosing a more affordable dorm or staying off-campus, depending on costs. Take actions that will help lower your utility bills, like turning off lights and taking shorter showers.
3) Save on food: Opt for homemade meals. Also, utilize all the meals available on your meal plan.
4) Cut academic expenses: You can always get used textbooks at a cheaper price. You can always buy books from someone that has just finished the class. Remember to sell those books once you’re done with the class. For the really expensive books, you may consider renting them instead of buying them.
5) Strict budgeting: Ensure you stick to your budget. That way, you won’t have to incur credit card debts which adds more financial burden.
You can always turn to family, friends, and others around you that can help fund your education.
Over the last few years, many students are turning to crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe to raise money. Several millions of dollars have been raised in such education-related campaigns.
Crowdfunding is relatively new in the world of student loan debt. And students are becoming even more creative in finding ways to get a college education without falling into debt.
The list we’ve explored is in no way exhaustive. Other ways to avoid student college debt include:
Working part-time while studying
Applying for a paid internship in your field
Even if you’re unable to entirely escape student debt, taking these actions will drastically help cut down on college costs.
Good luck with your studies!
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