With the cost of higher education continuously increasing each year, it’s no wonder why so many Americans dismiss the idea of obtaining a higher degree or going to college in general. A huge source of stress for many potential students is that of student loans, and, while they are a huge benefit, they can become an impossible burden once the payments start kicking in. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help avoid accumulating massive student loan debt.
“During the 2014-15 academic year, the average tuition and fees at a four-year private college was $31,231, according to The College Board. In comparison, tuition and fees at a public four-year college cost $9,139.”
One of the most beneficial ways to avoid student loan debt is scholarships. Scholarships are awards that are granted to students that are made up of donations. These do not have to be paid back and they come in endless varieties, whether they be based on academics, activities, race, gender, or socioeconomic status. Many scholarships require applications, documentation of test scores, and even essays. They do involve some time and effort, but the hard work you put in will be entirely worth it.
Federal Grants or Programs
Federal Grants are another type of award that is given to students and does not have to be paid back. Grants are distributed by the United States government and are often given based on financial need. The amount of money that the grant is worth will depend on your unique situation and what you qualify for, but it can be used for tuition as well as any other fees that are related to your educational expenses.
“Beware: Private companies may contact you with offers to help you with your student loans for a fee. Remember, you never have to pay for help with your student loans. You can go directly to U.S.Department of Education and their loan servicers will help guide you.”
Paying Interest Early
For the students loans that you do have to take out, paying the interest early on them can help you save thousands of dollars. You can do this by making small payments while you are in college. Even if it doesn’t seem like you are doing much, it can still help avoid your loans from accumulating down the line.
Making Larger Monthly Payments
Another way to help save more on those students loans that you had to take out is to make larger payments each month. Paying above the minimum payment by only ten or fifteen dollars might not seem like a big deal, but it can end up saving you thousands of dollars over the entire life of your loan. By paying extra money each month, you are actually paying less of the interest and more towards the principal balance. This can ultimately end up shortening your loan by many months.
“Quick Tip: Try to avoid overborrowing for your college education. Do not treat loan limits as targets. A good rule of thumb is that your total education debt for your entire college education should be less than your expected starting salary after you graduate.”
Student Loan Refinancing
After you have been making payments on your student loans for a few years, it might be a good idea to consider refinancing them. Refinancing student loans is the process of taking on a new loan with fresh terms and using it to pay off your older, original loan. Doing this is beneficial because you may be able to get a lower interest rate with the new loan than the one you started with. Again, a lower interest rate can end up saving you a lot of money throughout your loan, so it is a good idea to contact your loan provider and see what options you have.
Whether you are going to college for the first, or going back after a long time, financial reasons are a big cause for hesitation. By taking advantage of scholarships, grants, and smart financial planning, affording college can be much more attainable than you thought while allowing you to obtain your degree.