How College Students Can Minimize Long-Term Debt
By Virginia Cooper of Learn a Living
Earning a college degree can be an incredibly fulfilling experience, but you may dread what comes after. Long-term student debt is something that may follow you for years after graduation. If you want to minimize long-term debt, there are options available to you right now that can save you money. Whether you are planning to attend college or are currently in school, there are actions you can take to reduce your future debt.
Plan Your College Trajectory
Before you enroll in the university of your dreams and start taking out federal student aid loans, it would be wise to plan out your educational trajectory a little more carefully. Data shows that the average tuition cost at a two-year community college is just over $3,000 per year, while annual tuition at a public four-year university comes in at around $9,500. This means that students could potentially save over $10,000 in tuition alone by planning to transfer schools halfway through their pursuit of a bachelor's degree. Knowing your educational goals and potential expenses well in advance also opens the way to finding the right federal or private loan options to suit your unique circumstances.
Search for Relevant Online Programs
You may find that there are a number of online programs available in your field of interest. If possible, consider taking some or all of your classes online as a way to save money. Online courses are often less expensive than traditional in-person programs and include the added benefit of flexibility. You will be able to take care of your various work and life obligations while learning at your own pace in just about any educational field. For example, you could work toward an online degree in nursing, health care management, or health service coordination.
Save on Books and Living Expenses
There are a number of college-related expenses that you can save on throughout your academic years. Textbooks are a large expense amounting to well over $1,200 for the average student. You can cut these costs by shopping online rather than in your campus bookstore, going digital, or sharing with other students in your class. You might also be able to reduce your living costs by hunting for a local apartment that costs less than your campus dorms. If you do choose to live on campus, consider leaving your car at home to avoid expensive parking fees and utilize public transportation or rideshare options to save on transportation.
Work Part-Time While in School
Working while in school may sound overwhelming, but it's a clear method for keeping your debt down. By making money early and often, you can aggressively pay off your loans before they accumulate unmanageable interest. You could even take the opportunity to enroll in a work-study program that secures employment for you while giving you experience in a field related to your studies. Work-study programs are also great opportunities to make important connections with professionals in your desired career area.
Saving money where possible is key to protecting yourself from borrowing more money than you can comfortably pay back. If you keep your loans manageable, you will be able to pay them off more quickly after you complete your degree. Knowing where you can cut costs during your college career will help you plan ahead and minimize debt in the long run.
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