Going to college is such a dream, but did you know that college can be expensive? While the average tuition fee of ranked private colleges decreased by 5% and ranked public schools by 4% for 2020–2021, it doesn’t change the fact that attending college costs thousands of dollars. At present, the average tuition fees at private, out-of-state (public), and in-state (public) colleges are now at USD$35,087, USD$21,184, and USD$9,687, respectively. Not everyone can afford to finish a four-year course, which is why students apply for student loans to help them get through college. Students will then be paying the loans once they find a job after graduating.
Student Loans: A Trap To Debt
A lot of people say that education is the key to success. With proper and formal education, it will be easier to land a job in the corporate industry and earn a decent amount of money to make a living and live a comfortable life. This is why some people take a leap of getting student loans in hopes that they can give themselves a better future. They consider this a good debt because it will help them in their future careers.
However, is it really a good debt if your college degree can’t land you a job that can barely pay your student loans? With not much experience in life, students jump into taking loans right away without thinking about what lies ahead. There is not much information given to widen their understanding and explore their options. This is quite unfair, given how students will be bringing this responsibility with them at the start of their professional careers.
How Students Avoid Student Loan Debt Trap
Students are given limited options if they choose to avoid getting student loans. Here are a few, which will also be discussed in the latter part of the article:
1. Going to a community college
2. Borrower education
3. Grants and scholarships
4. Tuition assistance
5. Nonprofit online universities
How To Actually Save Money And Avoid Student Debt
Given better circumstances, students should be allowed to think more outside the box. There are so many other options, aside from the five ideas previously presented. These include:
Consider your school to save money
Before deciding to attend college, you probably already know what course you’re going to take. Thus, with your degree of specialization already locked in, you need to do a thorough search of every educational facility that offers it. After gathering your data and making a list of schools, check to see which one offers the best program at a reasonable rate. There are expensive schools that are not quite competitive in providing quality education. Still, some are cut out to be one of the best even if their tuition fees don’t cost as much as Ivy League universities. You can find a list of affordable yet reputable schools from sites such as https://www.bestvalueschools.org/.
Make sure you are applying for an accredited school
You may always hear about school accreditations, but fail to understand their importance. School accreditations are done yearly, and its purpose is to evaluate every department of the institution as to whether or not it meets the standards set by the accreditors to perform and provide an optimal learning experience for the students. Once a school passes an evaluation, it is considered credible. Thus, in choosing schools to attend college, find those who have undergone and passed accreditation with flying colors. This will increase your chances of getting hired by good companies in the future.
Explore prior learning assessments in high school
To help struggling students get ready for college, high schools offer prior learning assessments that allow students to take college credits even while still in high school. However, prior learning assessments differ from school to school and may offer different programs, like portfolio review. Nevertheless, every student should use this program to avoid having debts and enjoy the college experience altogether.
Earn a degree online
If there’s one thing the Internet has taught humanity during this pandemic, it’s that a lot of resources are available, and you can do almost anything you want. With people spending more time at home to avoid contracting the deadly virus, they are left to find things to do to kill the boredom. Over the months of lockdown, schools have explored online learning. Many accredited institutions also offer college courses you can easily take at home as long as you access the Internet.
Earning a college degree online can save you a lot of money because you wouldn’t have to worry about the costs of rent, transportation, meals, and parking fees anymore. Imagine how much you can save by just staying at home and attending school at the same time. If your degree ever requires an internship, schools can easily arrange with nonresident students to find a company within the area to help fulfill the requirements.
Convert associate degree credits to a four-year degree program
An associate degree is an undergraduate degree given to students who have successfully finished two to three years of study. Associate degrees aim to provide students the technical and academic knowledge they need to learn before pursuing their chosen field of interest. Students can also find employers once they complete associate degrees.
If you want to save cost during college, you can convert your credits from your associate degree into a four-year degree program as long as they match the curriculum of your chosen field of expertise. This way, you won’t have to retake the college subject since you already did during your associate degree. Thus, your expenses are lessened, and you can save that amount for other costs that will help you lower your debt.
Enroll in an accelerated program
An accelerated degree program is fast-paced. It offers courses within a 16-week time frame. Accelerated programs are not for everyone, especially if you’re very busy. During accelerated degree programs, you need to train your mind to become organized. Time management is also essential to complete all the requirements in a short period. While universities can ask for more money because of compacted time and rapid-fire processes, over time, students can save more money compared to attending a regular college degree that can go as long as five years. This is because you will only be spending for school for two years and immediately find a job after graduation.
Finance the cost of your education
If you don’t want to take student loans when you start college, you can finance the cost of your education yourself. Starting now, you must save your money until you can afford the right school. Also, if privileged enough, your parents can assist you in paying for your college tuition. The road might not be easy, but it’s one of the best ways to stay debt-free while attending school. You can find part-time jobs elsewhere to help you lessen the load of your finances.
Apply for available grants
Many institutions offer student grants that can help students finish their degrees without having to worry about money. Institutions extending financial help are the federal government, the state government, nonprofit organizations, and your school of choice. Unlike student loans, grants are usually free, as long as you pass the eligibility requirements. There are also rules to maintain your grant, which you will need to follow and comply with during your years at school. However, there are instances when you will need to pay for your grant. Examples are the following:
1. Early withdrawal from the program where the grant was given to you
2. A change in enrolment status, which deems you ineligible for the grant
3. Outside scholarships or grants that reduced your need for federal student aid
4. Receiving a TEACH Grant, but not meeting its requirements
Apply for scholarships
Scholarships are financial awards given to students to help them pay for their tuition. Different institutions and nonprofit organizations offer scholarships. Scholarships differ in type. Some are merit-based, prioritizing students who have exceptional grades during high school. At the same time, some scholarships are given to athletes or those who do great in their chosen sports and are chosen by recruiters to attend the university and play for their team. Either way, being granted a scholarship will be a significant opportunity to attend college without paying for it. As long as you can maintain the grades required to keep receiving a scholarship, college will be a breeze, and you can enjoy the experience as much as you can.
Take advantage of employer tuition reimbursement
If you are currently working somewhere and your employer asks you if you want to take a college course related to your occupation, take the opportunity right away. Many people struggle to maintain a work-life balance because some employers are not too keen on having employees who are still trying to complete a degree. This may be for reasons that shall be disclosed by respective employers. However, under a good boss and management, you can study while working and get a tuition reimbursement over time.
Employee tuition reimbursement or financial aid is an employee benefit wherein an employer pays for a predetermined amount of credits on continuing education or college coursework, which can be applied towards a degree. This ensures how a student can improve their current skills that are related to their work. While this benefit is widely available, it is underutilized. People should be given knowledge about it to have better chances of attending college and finishing a degree.
Apply for the Federal Work-Study program
The Federal Work-Study is a program that aims to help students with financial need. The program provides undergraduate, graduate, and professional students with part-time jobs, which will help them pay for their college tuition for the duration of their college education. Whether you are a full-time or a part-time student, you can apply for this program. However, it is only available for schools that participate in the Federal Work-Study program. It offers a wide range of public work, including those involved in civic education and those that are related to your degree. This way, you will already have work experience in your degree of specialization in the real world, while learning the basics in school. You can easily find good paying jobs related to your course because of your previous exposure.
If you have the heart to serve the country and finish school at the same time, you can enlist in the military to provide military service. Every branch of the military has different criteria in assisting with tuition. If you are eligible and are an active duty service member, you can receive a maximum of USD$250 per semester hour. The annual maximum may be granted to you at USD$4,500 to pay for your tuition. This data is according to the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Sport’s website.
Is It Possible To Be Debt-Free In College?
Now that you’ve come across a handful of options for you to pursue an excellent college education, the big question here is whether it is possible to be debt-free in college. The answer, of course, is yes. With your ability to think outside the box and exhaust every possible effort, there is a big chance for you to go to college debt-free and focus solely on finishing your chosen degree. Nothing comes down to luck because you make your own decisions by yourself and, in return, forge your future along the way.
Every step you make to ensure your spot in getting a degree is crucial to its completion. With your parents’ and friends’ support, and your determination to make your dreams a reality, you can find an answer to most of your problems. Learn to approach individuals who can help you, and as early as high school, start doing your research to make the process less complicated because it is true that your chances of living a comfortable life are increased with a degree.
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