The following is a guest post from Good Nelly. Most TFR readers are probably well beyond their college years, but some may be pondering this for their kids or even to acquire a new degree for themselves in a field of their interest. College can provide a great head start in life and even help change careers but student loans are a huge burden for most people. Higher education needs a serious hack to tame this massive cost beast. This post reminds you to keep hacking away till you bring your education costs down to a manageable level. Nelly, all yours…
The $1.3 trillion student loan debt in the country is not letting college graduates become debt free. If you’re one of them, then look for ways to pay off your student loan debt as soon as possible.
But, if you’re a future college goer and don’t want to take out a student loan, look for ways to save money for college costs.
Here’s a list of how you can save money for college expenses by avoiding student loan.
- Get scholarships and grants
The federal and state governments and many colleges provide grants to students who cannot afford their college expenses. In addition to FAFSA, there are a number of online scholarship/grant programs that you must search for, understand and possibly even apply for, several months prior to your college starting year.
The Federal Pell Grant offers “up to $5,815 per student in the 2016-2017 academic year.” That’s a significant grant.
Also, you can get information on other federal grants from the Department of Education and get state grants on CollegeScholarships.org.
As far as scholarships are concerned, very few students get a full-time scholarship from the university. You can look for private scholarships through charities, businesses, government and civic organizations if you haven’t received one from your college.
- Earn college credits
If you start taking college classes while studying in high school, you can earn college credits. The more college credits you have before going to college, the less you have to pay for your college costs.
- Go to a community college
You will get an affordable education at a community college. So, before enrolling yourself in a 4-year specialization course at a university, complete your general education from a community college. (Mr. TFR adds: A friend of mine’s kid did just this. She spent two years at a small community college in Virginia and then graduated from a top 10 university by attending only the last 2 years there, saving over $25,000 in costs!).
- Look for affordable housing options
There are areas where living off-campus is cheaper than living in a college dorm. But, you need to consider other factors like rent, food, transportation, and so on that may increase your expenses. If you find any low-cost rental options (after calculating all these factors) off-campus, go for it.
- Earn while you’re in college
You can take a part-time job to arrange money for college expenses like tuition fees, food, textbooks, activity fees, and so on. If you find it too stressful to manage work and study at the same time, try to work during summer vacations.
You can also enroll in a work-study program to pay for college costs.
- Select the right meal plan
If you choose the correct meal plan, you can save a lot on your food. Plus, some meal plans allow you to purchase additional points, which you can use at other eateries on campus.
- Avoid buying new textbooks
It is one of the easiest ways to save money for college expenses. Borrow books from your seniors, purchase used books from the campus bookstore, or get them on rent from websites like Chegg and Bookrenter and save your precious dollars.
- Get freeware for computer
Instead of purchasing computer software like MSOffice with hundreds of dollars, download free software like OpenOffice to save more money.
- Take an extra class each semester
You may think you are super busy, but, taking one extra class each semester will help you complete your college degree before time. If you do so, you can also save money on meals, rents, and other living expenses.
- Cut costs on other things
Besides cutting college costs you must change some of your financial habits like stop buying useless or expensive items, stop using credit cards for every little purchase when you can pay with cash, and so on.
To attain complete financial freedom you should make a proper budget. Remember, a wrong budget will put your financial life in danger. So, create a budget that excludes all unnecessary expenses and helps you achieve your economic goals.
Last piece of advice…
You can get a student loan anytime. But, try to avoid it as much as possible because they’ll only lead you to debt (provided you pay it off sincerely). So, save as much as you can before your graduation degree to stay away from student loan debt.