Many Americans struggle with student loan debt accumulated during their younger years that follow them well into adulthood. College debt can be overwhelming for some, with many graduates finding they have to delay major life purchases and events because they’re saddled with huge debt from educational loans. Fortunately, if you’re just starting to think about how to pay for college, there are some choices that can help you mitigate the potential for crushing long-term debt.
Stay in state
Many people who accumulate large student loan debt choose to attend out-of-state colleges, which cost significantly more than in-state options. Furthermore, private colleges cost more than public schools. If you’re seeking a highly specialized area of study or have your heart set on an Ivy League, it’s certainly your option to pursue these dreams, but take a close look at less expensive options before you make a decision and know what you’re getting into. State schools often provide exceptional education.
Seek scholarships and financial aid
Scholarships and grants can significantly offset tuition costs. Some colleges automatically apply for different grants and scholarships on your behalf when you fill out admission forms. There are a number of different financial aid packages available through the U.S. Department of Education, also known as FAFSA. If you qualify, you may also need to maintain a certain grade point average, or GPA, to keep your financial aid year-over-year. There are also government-backed student and parents loans which can be easier and less expensive to obtain than private loans.
Live at home or off-campus
While going off to college and living on campus is part of the college experience, room and board fees can significantly increase your overall college costs. According to U.S. News, consider living off-campus or at home with your family and commuting to and from classes. This will help you cut down on your expenses. Also, rather than owning a car and paying for maintenance and parking, use a bicycle or public transportation as a way to get around. Some colleges require that freshmen live on campus, but even then you might be able to be a resident assistant in a dorm to reduce your boarding costs.
Look for work-study options
Many campuses offer opportunities for work-study and on-campus jobs to help you offset your tuition costs. While you don’t necessarily want your work to overshadow your studies, working while in college can help defray costs, or at a minimum, help you support yourself in other ways so you aren’t tempted to run up credit card debt. According to Brandon Gaille, if you know what you want to major in, you might be able to find on-campus work that aligns with your academic preferences, allowing you the benefits of getting paid, hands-on work in your field of choice.
Brick-and-mortar campuses aren’t the only paths to higher education. Consider the myriad benefits of online degree programs. They can be less expensive than in-person programs and you can work on your own schedule. This allows you the opportunity to hold a job while still managing other life responsibilities. You might also look at community colleges, even if it’s just for the first two years, and then transfer to a four-year institution. This can save you a significant amount of money.
Other ways to defray college costs include renting or buying used books instead of new, when possible, and renting a large house with a number of other students. While paying for a college education can be pricey, it can also afford you the opportunity to set yourself up for a fulfilling and potentially high-earning career.
Feature image by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash.