Finishing college with a mountain of debt is a scary reality for many graduates today. Statistics show the average total student loan debt is now over $30,000!
But you don't have to be part of those depressing stats. With smart planning and strategic money moves, you can take control of your finances and graduate with minimal debt or even debt-free.
This blog shares insider tips to avoid student loan debt and help you get through college without drowning in loans. Let's get started!
Choose an Affordable College Program
One of the best ways to avoid debt is to pick an affordable school. Public in-state universities or a local community college that offer college credit transfer programs to 4-year institutions are great budget-friendly options.
You can also look into accredited online colleges and universities that provide more flexibility and very low tuition rates for traditional students. For example, the University of the People is a nonprofit, tuition-free online school.
The key is researching all your options, comparing costs and financial aid packages, and choosing the most cost-effective path for your goals and budget.
Find and Apply for Scholarships and Grants to Avoid Student Debt
After choosing a college, the next step is seeking out "free money" through scholarships and Federal student aid grants. This aid does not need to be repaid like student loans.
There are tons of resources to help you find relevant scholarships, including:
Apply to as many scholarships as possible that fit your background and interests. Even small scholarships add up and reduce the amount you'll need to borrow for higher education.
Get a Part-Time Job or Side Hustle
Working while you attend college serves two money purposes: it helps cover your living costs now and also reduces how much you need to borrow for tuition through jobs or side hustles like:
- On-campus employment
- Work-study programs
- Driving for a rideshare app
- Donate Plasma
- Bartend, Cook or Serve at a location near campus
Aim for a 10 to 15-hour-per-week job that won't overwhelm your academics. You may also find working helps you improve your time management skills.
The money you earn will really pay off in less loans!
Seek Employer Tuition Assistance
Find out if your part-time job or your employers offer tuition reimbursement benefits. Many forward-thinking companies are willing to pay for all or part of an employee's continuing education.
Securing tuition assistance from an employer is like getting free money toward college costs for your degree. Be sure to research if companies you or your family work for offer this win-win employee incentive.
Compare Student Loan Options
If you do need to borrow money for college, make sure you understand your loan options. Federal student loans usually have lower interest rates and better repayment terms compared to private student loans.
Prioritize federal loans like Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans first. Be cautious when considering private loans which lack flexibility if you hit repayment challenges.
Pay Interest Early to Save Money to Reduce Student Loan Debt
Here's an insider tip to reduce your student loan payments and burden: Make interest payments on your student loans while you're still in school. This prevents interest from being added to your loan's principal balance when payments are deferred.
Paying interest now saves you money in the long run. Work with your loan provider to set up automatic payments from your bank account. Every bit of interest you pay today reduces loan pain tomorrow!
Accelerate Academics to Save on Tuition
Look for ways to accelerate your academics so you can graduate faster. Options include taking CLEP tests to earn instant credits for your existing knowledge and taking extra classes each semester or in the summer.
The sooner you can complete your degree requirements, the more tuition costs you'll avoid and the less interest that can accrue on any loans.
Live Frugally and Budget Wisely
Sticking to a lean budget helps you get through college with less debt. On-campus housing and meal plans are very expensive. Consider getting an off-campus apartment and buying groceries to keep food costs and living expenses down.
Cook for yourself as much as possible, and limit going out for entertainment. With a little creativity, you can have fun on campus for free while being frugal and focused.
Government Assistance Programs
If you or your family qualifies based on need, take advantage of government assistance programs like Federal Pell Grants and the Affordable Connectivity Program.
Grants provide money to pay for college tuition that doesn't need to be repaid. The ACP makes internet service more affordable so you can save money on this essential utility.
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Reliable cell phone service is essential for college students today. You need a phone to stay connected to classmates for group projects, check email and course updates from professors, use educational apps, and more. EASY Wireless provides free or wireless plans so you can focus on learning instead of worrying about phone bills.
EASY Rewards Program
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EASY Rewards help you save on phone costs down the road so you’ll have extra money available for books, supplies, and college tuition, instead of overspending on a phone bill.
Get Ready to Graduate without a Moutain of Student Loan Debt!
College may feel stressful, but you've got this! By applying these savvy tips, you can control your finances, minimize unnecessary costs, and set yourself up for success now and after graduation.
Stay focused on your end goal of earning your degree with as little debt as possible. With smart planning and strategic borrowing, you can conquer college debt-free and without breaking the bank!