Updated: Oct 29, 2021
In 2020, more than half of all American students went into debt to pay for college, with the average student loan debt reaching $37,500. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the collective ower approximately $1.6 trillion in total. While these numbers rise each year that does not mean you have to go into debt for thousands of dollars to receive an education. It is possible to obtain a college degree without incurring significant debt, but doing so requires effort. If you’re wondering where to start in this journey, then this article is for you.
1. Consider Affordable Schools
You might have a wish list of colleges that you want to attend. However, if you are looking to graduate debt-free, you’ll need to broaden your search to include cheaper choices. When it comes to selecting a school, finding one that you can afford should always be one of your top concerns. Thie may entail altering your or your child’s expectations of attending a specific dream school. Easy to examine more cost-effective alternates may include doing the following:
Choosing a public university over a private institution.
Completing some of you basic education requirement at a community college or two-year college, then transferring.
Attending an online college or university.
Going to school in-state instead of out-of-state.
2. Research Scholarships and Grants
Scholarships and grants can be a great way to help pay for education costs as they usually do not have to be repaid. On the other hand, findings scholarships and grants can become a bit more difficult as there are numerous options out there. To get started, try checking out these free information sources:
The financial aid office at your chosen college, university, or trade school.
Speak with your high school counselor.
Visit the U.S Department of Labor’s Free Scholarship Tool.
Speak with foundations, religious organizations, local businesses, and civic groups to see if they offer scholarship awards.
Reach out to professional organizations and associations related to your field of interest to find out what opportunities they offer.
When completing your search for grants and scholarships, make sure all the information and offers you receive are legitimate. To understand more about avoiding scams, check out this article from the Federal Student Aid Office: Avoiding Student Aid Scams.
3. Compare Your Financial Aid Packages
Filling out the Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is free, and it will help you understand how much financial aid you could be eligible for. Once you’ve completed the FAFSA and been accepted to different schools, take the time to evaluate the financial aid packages each one is offering. Though many people think their offers will be similar for each school, this is not always the case, so be sure to review your offers carefully. If you are genuinely looking to reduce your debt as much as possible, it may be in your best financial interest to attend the school with the highest aid package.
4. Live Off-Campus
At many colleges, one of the most significant expenses for students is room and board. In 2018-19, the average cost of in- and out-of-state room and board for public schools was $11,140, while the average cost for a private school is $12,680. If you or your child can find a place to rent near campus or continue to live at home, it can help save a lot of money in the long run.
5. Get The Best Deals On Your Books
One thing that many students and parents do not consider when attending college is the total amount spent on books during their entire time there. When you start adding up $100 here and $200 there on the various books bought, that amount can begin to grow. Instead of purchasing these items directly from the school’s book store, consider renting textbooks from online sites, borrowing books from the school’s library, asking professors to use an extra copy if they have one, or purchasing an ebook instead.
6. Establish A College Budget
Budgeting is something we hear all the time in every aspect of finance, and you’re probably thinking this is a no-brainer. However, there are still many individuals who fail to prioritize creating and sticking to a budget. When students realize how much a month of college costs in terms of food, transportation, clothes, events, and everything else, they’ll start to spend their time and money more wisely.
Schedule A Consultation with an Experienced Financial Advisor
Most college students hope to obtain a degree that will significantly enhance their earning potential after graduation. Even yet, many individuals will have to devote a significant portion of their wages to repaying student debt. Here at Fourth Avenue Financial, our priority is your overall financial success. We want to help you develop, implement, and monitor a strategy designed to address your individual needs, especially those needs involving you or your child’s education. If you are ready to start planning for your financial future, we are here to help. Contact us today at (304) 746 7977 to schedule a meeting with one of our experienced financial advisors or schedule online: https://calendly.com/fourthavenuefinancial/introductory-zoom.
Securities are offered through J.W. Cole Financial, Inc. (JWC) Member FINRA / SIPC. Advisory Services are offered through J.W. Cole Advisors, Inc. (JWCA). Fourth Avenue Financial and JWC/ JWCA are unaffiliated entities.