For many students across America, the steep cost of tuition is the biggest deterrent to attending college. With tuition fees increasing every year and no corresponding increase in income, the cost of college becomes even more unaffordable every consecutive year. Most students are forced to take on thousands of dollars in student loans to cover these ballooning tuition fees. While taking student loans may be unaffordable, there are things you can do to lower your debt.
But first, a look at why the cost of college keeps rising.
Why Is College Tuition Rising?
Experts disagree as to the reasons for the ballooning tuition fees. One possible reason is that colleges are constantly working towards providing better facilities and improved student support services. These additional costs are passed on to students by way of higher tuition fees.
Another reason is thought to be the changes in local and state funding. The amount that local and state governments allot to colleges is not consistent. It fluctuates every year depending on tax revenues and market conditions. When schools do not receive the funds they need, they increase the fees to make up the deficit.
The easy availability of federal and private student loans is also thought to contribute to ballooning tuition fees. Colleges raise their fees knowing that students who are interested will find a way to meet those costs. This is even if it means borrowing thousands of dollars in student loans.
It’s important not to give in to the trend of taking on too much student loan debt. Student loan borrowers often spend a major portion of their adult life paying off that debt. Ideally, you want to do everything you can to cover most of the tuition fees from your personal savings and borrow as little as possible.
Here are some things you can do:
What You Can Do To Meet Ballooning Tuition Fees & Minimize Student Tuition Loan Debt
1. Start Saving Early
Sounds like a simple, straightforward tip that shouldn’t really make it to this list. But the fact most students leave it too late to start saving for college. When they finally get around to thinking about saving, it seems like they’re never going to save enough so why bother at all.
The key to saving for college is to start early. You know you want to go to college by the time you’re in middle school. Why not start planning right then? You can start by saving the gift money you get for birthdays and other occasions. Open a savings bank account and let the money gather interest and grow. Every deposit may seem small and insignificant but remember, every dollar adds up. Your college fund will grow over time. When the time comes to pay for college, you’ll be glad you started saving early.
2. Get a Part-Time Job
Getting a part-time job is another great way to save towards your college tuition. Labor laws may restrict the kinds of jobs you can take on if you’re under 16 years of age. But there are several part-time jobs you can take on just around your neighborhood itself. You can take on babysitting, dog-walking, lawn mowing, or delivering newspapers. There are plenty of opportunities that are safe, age-appropriate, and won’t interfere with your studies. Your earnings will depend on how many hours of work you put in.
Remember, you’re working towards paying your college tuition so don’t blow up your earnings. Deposit whatever you earn into your savings account and let it gather interest and grow. Think of it as a part-time job that doesn’t require you to actually work.
3. Apply For Scholarships
Scholarships are free money. You have to work towards winning the award money but whatever money you win is yours to keep. You don’t have to return it, nor do you have to pay interest. Even better, there are no restrictions on how many scholarships you can apply to. And there are no restrictions to how much award money you can win. So go for it! The time spent looking for and applying for scholarships is well worth it.SEARCH SCHOLARSHIPS >>
When looking for scholarships, remember there are several different types out there. Some are based on merit while others are based on other criteria such as minority status, cultural background, or religious affiliations. There are even a few unusual scholarships awarded for criteria such as the ability to speak Klingon, stuck at prom, and Starfleet scholarships.
One thing to keep in mind when applying for scholarships. The bigger the award money, the more competitive the scholarship. So don’t overlook those small awards. If you meet the requirements, go ahead and submit an application. Every dollar you earn by way of scholarships will make college that much more affordable for you.
4. Understand what financial aid is available
The federal government several types of financial aid to enough students to get a college degree. Take time to read and understand the eligibility criteria and other terms and conditions for each type of financial aid.
Students who demonstrate exceptional financial need receive additional funding to support their academic goals. Go to the Federal Student Aid website and make a note of the type of financial aid available and the eligibility criteria. Most important of all, check the submission deadlines if any. Make sure you gather the necessary documents and submit your application well before the deadline.
Many states also offer financial aid to residents who enroll in in-state colleges. Go through this list of State Financial Aid Programs. If your state offers aid, check the eligibility requirements. If you meet the criteria, submit your application along with the documents requested.
It also helps to ask colleges you’re interested in about the financial aid they offer.
5. Consider community colleges
Completing 2 years in community college and then transferring to a 4-year college can save you thousands of dollars. Community colleges offer strong academic programs at one-third the cost of private colleges. Think of what you could do with those savings! You can save even more on accommodation if you enroll in an institution close to home.
Choosing this path makes college so much more affordable. Even if you do have to take a loan to fund your education, it won’t be an overwhelming amount. This will lay the foundation for less-stressed adult life after graduation.
6. Consider a less expensive school
If community college does not work for you for whatever reason, you can still pay less towards tuition by simply choosing a less expensive school. You’ll find many colleges offering the programs you’re interested in. The tuition costs at these colleges vary considerably. Instead of choosing the most expensive school, consider enrolling in a less expensive one. As long as it offers the programs you’re interested in, that’s good.
7. Prioritize federal student loans over private student loans
If you absolutely have to borrow money, apply for federal student loans first. These have lower interest rates and more flexible repayment options. They also offer deferment and forbearance options for borrowers who are financially stressed. If you qualify, you may also be able to get part of your loans forgiven.
Private student loans are more expensive and the repayment terms are more rigid. Private lenders do not offer any flexibility or protections and should only be taken as a last resort.
To avail of federal student loans, you must file the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) every academic year. Filing the FAFSA is mandatory in order to receive any type of federal or institutional financial aid. This includes grants, scholarships, work-study, and loans.
8. Work-Study Program
This is one of the options available when you fill out the FAFSA. Work-study is a facility the federal government offers students as a way to earn money while studying. If you think you can handle working while studying, it’s worth applying for work-study. You can use the money you earn to offset your college costs or pay back your loans early.
9. Cut down on unnecessary college expenses
There are some college expenses that are just unnecessary. Living on campus is one such expense. Sure, it’s convenient and fun but it’s also much more expensive than living off campus. You can cut down the cost of college significantly when you live in shared accommodation off campus. Not only is the rent cheaper but you’ll also save by cooking your own food instead of the college café or getting home deliveries.
Aside from this, you can cut back even more by renting textbooks instead of buying and using public transportation. Look out for other opportunities where you can cut back on expenses to make college more affordable for you.
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