Nearly every student who is using student loans to finance his or her education has at least some concern with their ability to repay the debt. As higher education costs rise, forcing the use of ever higher loan amounts to pay for them, the burden placed on students after graduation is becoming more threatening all the time.
The only way to control the amount of debt that you owe after graduation is to minimize the amount of student loans that you take while you’re in school. Here are five ways to do that.
Stay On The Four Year ProgramWhatever the reasons, it’s no longer uncommon for a student to take five or six years to complete a four-year degree. But the more time that you spend in school, the more your education will cost – and the more student loan debt you’ll be forced to take. This should make a priority of completing your undergraduate degree within four years.
An extended stay in school can be caused by any of the following factors:
- You may not have been prepared for the rigors of university when you entered.
- You may have entered with no idea what your major would be, hoping to discover it along the way.
- Changing majors (more on that next).
- You might like university life so much that you don’t want to leave.
OK, that last one seems like a stretch, but I’ve actually known a few people who did just that. But apart from that one, getting in touch with what really want to do with your life early in the university process can have a material effect on the amount of debt that you will graduate with.
Since the additional amount of debt that you will incur as a result of staying in school extra years can run into tens of thousands dollars, it may be worth investing some serious time and effort in deciding where you are at on each of the above issues, that way you avoid a costly extension of your education.
Choose Your Major Early – And Wisely
One of the primary reasons why students are unable to complete their undergraduate degree in four years is changing majors. Changing majors often extends the amount of time spent in school, which raises the cost of your education and the size of the loans that you need. Once you’re able to zero in on your major, you’ll have a reasonable chance to contain the size of your student loan debts.
To help you identify a major, give serious thought to some of these questions as early in your education as possible:
- What do I really like to do?
- What are my talents and skills – where do my aptitudes lie?
- Are there serious career or business outlets for those preferences?
- Do I need to delay entry into university until I have a better idea where I’m going?
- Is a university degree even necessary or desirable for that field? (It isn’t always!)
The more you know about what you want to do going into university, the less you will owe on the way out.
Take A Gap Year To Save Some Money
Though it may slow the completion of your degree, you can ultimately save money by taking a gap year. That year can be used to spend time working and saving money that you can use to at least partially pay for your education. At a minimum, it will enable you to have a large savings account that you can use to cover smaller, day-to-day expenses while you’re in school.
A gap year can also help you to identify your major. By taking a break from school for a while – and especially by working – it is often easier to identify a career major than if you attempt to go straight from high school to university. And once again, the savings – and debt reduction – will come as a result of being certain of your major and of avoiding the need to change it later.
Get A Part-Time Job Or Business Going To Help Pay Some Expenses
This is the most conventional solution to the student debt dilemma. The more of your education that you can pay for directly from your own resources, the less debt you’ll need to cover the difference. A part-time job or business can help you do this.
While it may not be possible to earn enough while attending school to pay for the cost of tuition and room and board, just having some pocket money to pay for living expenses, entertainment and incidentals can lower the amount of student debt that you need by thousands of dollars over four years.
Cut Out Room And Board For A Year Or Two
One of the best ways to reduce your student loans is by commuting to local university and avoiding the need for costly room and board. Not everyone has this option, but if you live in a metropolitan area with several universities, you may be able to complete at least one or two years at the local school, and then transfer to an out-of-area school of your choice.
The elimination of room and board during the time that you are attending a local school that you can commute to, can reduce the need for student loans by thousands of dollars. Once you have spent time at a local university, you can transfer, complete your education, and get your degree from your preferred school.
What strategies are you using to minimize student loan debt?