Graduating College With Out Student Loan Debt
College has gotten ridiculously expensive over the past decade or so - to the point that very few people seem to be able to graduate from college with out student loan debt. I find this very frustrating, because an education is more important than anything when it comes to getting a good paying job. Yet an education is increasingly difficult for people to obtain. I wanted to talk about some ways to avoid student loan debt AND still graduate from college.
First, it is never too early to plan. As a parent if you can save money for your child's college education from the time they are babies that is the best thing you can do. But realistically, most people can't save anything for their children's education. Even if parents are able to help, most are not able to pay for the entire thing. If you haven't saved anything and college is looming quickly, you can still plan ahead though.
Have your child apply for every scholarship and grant they can find. There are things that your child can do during high school that will greatly improve their chances of getting scholarships. Be involved in sports, activities and clubs. Many times there will be scholarships available for members. Think about things that will look good on an application (i.e. volunteering, earning your Eagle Scout, interning in your desired field, etc). Have your child do everything they can to keep their grades up and to be a well rounded person. There are so many scholarships available, but it requires work to find them, apply for them and earn them. Be willing to put the time in searching for scholarships and you will be rewarded for money for college.
Make sure your child has a job. My kids have had a job for eight years now and they range in age from 10-16. They are required to set aside a certain percentage of their income to help with college expenses. No it isn't a lot each week, but it does add up over time. And they have created the habit of saving for college. Older kids have a much better shot at getting a job and earning more money. Of course they should have some spending money, but even at a young age, they can grasp the importance of saving money for their education. My 16 year old worked for 4 months last summer and saved $1350 for a car. He will do it again this summer and probably have the first year's books covered for college with the money he makes.
Choose your school wisely. Typically going to an in-state school will be cheaper than an out-of-state school. For most careers it is just not that important where you get your degree from, but more that you have a degree. Compare the cost and the financial aid package for all the schools you are choosing - public and private. Then make a decision on what you can afford. Don't rule out a school because you think it is too expensive. You never know what kind of funding they will offer your child until you apply.
Have your child take college courses while still in high school. Many public school districts will pay for students to take college courses while they are still attending high school. This is a great way to get some of the basic, mandatory classes out of the way for free before ever starting college. You should not be locked into that school, because the credits will transfer to any college.
Attend a community college for a year or so getting the basic courses out of the way at a much lower price than a four year college would charge for the exact same thing. You could possibly even live at home during that time, reducing your costs tremendously. Then, based on what you want to get your degree in, you can transfer to a college for the last couple of years of specialized instruction. This could cut your college costs by up to half.
Seventh, once you get into college look for work study opportunities. At the school I went to, there were many people that worked at the school for 10-20 hours a week in order to pay for their tuition or room and board. Even if you can't get into a work study job, you can still get a job. I worked my entire way through college and I truly believe it helped me be a better student. It absolutely helped me avoid going into debt.
Eighth, room and board is expensive. The faster you can get through college the sooner you can start earning a real income. If you know what you want to do career wise, you can focus on the necessary classes sooner and graduate in three years instead of four. Your tuition costs might be the same as if you went four years, but you will reduce your room and board by 25% AND you will start earning money sooner. Be a Residential Advisor when you are an upper class man to get free room and board. RA's live in the dorms with younger students to offer guidance and help keep the peace.
Graduating college is a wonderful thing and I wish everyone had the opportunity to do so. I really don't like seeing people take out student loans to pay for their education. I hope these ideas will help everyone afford college and avoid debt altogether. Good luck!