College can be the gateway to a middle-class future. Unfortunately, it can also be a gateway to financial hardship. Just ask the millions of U.S. students who face over $1 trillion in student-loan debt today.
In a day-and-age when more young people than ever are attending college, costs have never been higher. According to the College Board, the price tag of an average public university education is $9,139 per year for in-state students and $22,958 for out-of-state residents. The number is a whopping $31,231 per year for a private school education.
The evidence clearly shows that college is still worth the cost as a general rule. Even so, many students find themselves mired in hopeless financial and vocational scenarios upon graduation, when, by following a few tips, they could have avoided this outcome.
As you and your student prepare for college, we’re here to help. Over the next several months, we’ll be publishing 36 cost-cutting tips to make the college journey more bearable financially. Be sure to check back regularly!
Here are our first six tips:
1. Avoid borrowing more than you need
Thanks to recent headlines about student-loan debt, more and more people are looking for alternatives. The road of keeping student loans to a minimum, or avoiding them altogether, is a tough one, but well worth it. If you can’t manage to avoid loans, try to keep the borrowing limited to classes, books, and reasonable room and board.
When borrowing, consider that the average repayment plan is 10 years. The average graduate in 2014 owes $33,000 in student loans. Although the economy is improving, many graduates have difficulty locating a job. So that’s another good reason to take a hard look at the ratio of how much you’ll spend on a degree versus how much your projected starting salary will be. Whether you take out student loans—and how much you do take out—hinges on this important question.
2. Graduate on time
Whether you are pursuing a two- or four-year degree, the cost savings of actually finishing on time are immense. Also consider the salary implications. The sooner you graduate, enter the job market, and nail down a job, the better. You will no longer be simply spending money—you’ll be earning it!
3. Reject the party lifestyle
Suffice to say that school is for learning. Yes, you should have a social calendar, but keeping your head down and ensuring you finish your degree on time will save you tons of financial headaches. Not to mention hangover headaches.
4. Only study abroad if it makes academic and career sense—unless someone is bankrolling it for you
If parents or loved ones want to bankroll a season of studying abroad, then it could become a wonderful, worthwhile experience. But having a student pay for it out of pocket, especially through student-loan debt, can be problematic. Forbes pegs the average cost per semester at $31,270 for study abroad programs, and that doesn’t include room and board and other associated costs.
5. Don’t dismiss the value of a part-time job
Young people get tired of hearing stories from their parents and grandparents about working their way through school, but this concept is important. You value your education much more highly with some skin in the game—by holding down a part-time job during the semester, or full-time job during the summer, and paying some of your own way.
An even better option is to scope out a part-time job in your area of specialty. This could be through a paid internship.
6. Consider alternatives to a dormitory or campus apartment
Viable alternatives might include purposefully choosing a nearby university so that you can live at home and commute to school. If you do choose an apartment nearby campus, always opt to share the space (and expenses) with roommates.
Check back soon for another six tips for reducing college costs!