Paying for college can be difficult, especially with the cost of tuition steadily rising. The quick fix is to take out student loans, but this can be costly when it’s time to repay them after graduation. Student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, and the government can garnish wages and tax refunds to get their money. They should be avoided whenever possible, and here are some easy ways to keep them out of your financial planning for school.
1. Serve Your Country
Serve your country by enlisting in the military, and you could Uncle Sam to cover the cost of tuition. In addition to letting the government pay for college, you will also come out with valuable experience that your peers won’t have. It’s not only a way to avoid student loans, but it’s a great way to prepare for adulthood.
2. College Courses Before Graduation from High School
Many school systems are now offering kids a fast-track for college. Pairing with local community colleges, kids who meet certain requirements can work on college courses before they ever leave high school. The classes are more affordable, the credits count and they will help put a dent in the overall expense of college.
3. Reduce Expenses through Smart Living
Don’t stay on campus and turn that money over to the college, but consider investing in the purchase of an apartment nearby. You can live in the apartment and rent out extra rooms, providing you with the money to cover the mortgage. After graduation, you can rent the apartment to other co-eds, providing you with a healthy residual income. Here are some other ways to lower your cost of living, allowing you to borrow less money while in school.
- Don’t dine at the college cafeteria. Buy your own groceries, cook meals in your apartment and put the savings towards your classes.
- A car is handy, but the insurance and maintenance can be costly. If the apartment is close to campus, then you should walk. Otherwise, invest in a bus pass and put the savings towards tuition and books.
- Be smart about the utilities. Turn off lights, don’t run the water all the time and wash full loads of laundry. Every dollar you save on these bills is another dollar you won’t have to borrow.
4. Scholarships and Grants are Free Money
There are literally thousands of scholarships out there that will provide you with a few thousand dollars. Every scholarship, regardless of how small it is, will save you money. Don’t turn away from any opportunity just because it “only” pays out a certain amount. Apply for everything you qualify for, and then smile as you watch the student loan amount drop.
5. Work and Save
This may not be the top choice, but it is a smart one. Working and going to college is difficult, but it’s not impossible. In addition to avoiding student loans, you will also learn valuable skills and develop a strong work ethic. Potential employers are impressed by driven people willing to work their own way through college, so you will have a powerful edge when graduation rolls around. It will mean missing a few parties now, but you will reap the benefits later when you get to keep more of your paycheck and your peers are struggling to pay the student loans.
There is no doubt that student loans are the simple choice, but they are not the smartest one. You may still have to take loans to make up the difference and complete your degree, but smaller levels will put you in a better position upon graduation. Put yourself in even better shape by making payments on the loans throughout college. It’s more work now, but you will reap the rewards for it later.
Lorena Weaver is a career counselor and in her spare time she blogs for onlinemilitaryeducation.org, a site she often recommends to those interested in finding out which are the 10 Best Online Colleges for Military and G.I. Bill. If you have considered pursuing a college degree online she suggests learning more at http://www.onlinemilitaryeducation.org