As the cost of college is increasingly on the rise, many average, every day families are wondering how they’re going to pay the bill. Unfortunately, most families can only pay for some of the costs up front. And that means student loans become a requirement.
According to The Institute for College Access and Success
, nearly 70% of college students graduated with roughly $30,000 in student loan debt in 2014. While that may sound bleak, there is still something students and their families can do to ease the burden or apprehension of debt.
First off, the Average Joe can start saving now
. Even if you only manage to save a few hundred dollars before school starts, a dollar saved is a dollar less that students will have to borrow.
Check out FinAid
for a plethora of savings strategies for students who are saving in advance as well as those doing so at the last minute.
Second, keep up the scholarship search
. It doesn’t end when you get your high school diploma. Students in college and graduate school can continue the scholarship search through their last year of college. And remember that the more scholarships you apply to, the better your chances of actually winning.
Get a job
– and that’s meant in the nicest way possible. Whether you find a job on- or off-campus, you can use your earnings to offset your tuition bill. Though on-campus jobs are typically reserved for students who qualify for work study
, there is a chance you can still snag one of these opportunities. They usually pay minimum wage and have a limited number of work hours each week to accommodate study and extracurricular activity time.
At the same time, if you have to get a job off-campus, most employers in a college town will understand your student schedule and attempt to work with it.
But if you do have to pay for college with student loans like most of the other Average Joe's out there, here are a few tips for navigating the borrowing process:
• Fill out the FAFSA.
This is the only way that you will qualify for federal student loans, which have the lowest interest rates as well as loan consolidation, repayment options and loan forgivness.
• Don’t over-borrow
to pay for frivolous things like late night pizza, spring break trips and new clothes for every occasion.
• Try to pay interest – or save the interest – while you’re in college.
Accumulating interest can cost hundreds of dollars over the lifetime of the loan. By paying it down while you’re in school or saving that money to pay down later, that’s less money that you’ll have to pay with your hard-earned income after graduation.
• Check out loan forgiveness programs.
These are unique opportunities for graduates who perform a public service like serving in the military, teaching in an underserved area or volunteering with AmeriCorps or PeaceCorps. After ten years of service, any remaining student loan debt will be discharged.
Just because you might be paying for college like the Average Joe doesn’t mean you have to settle for an overwhelming amount of student loan debt. It will take a lot of hard work, motivation and saving, but in the end, it’s worth it…literally.