March 27, 2017

5 Ways to Graduate College Debt-Free

For many of those going to college or those that are currently enrolled the idea of getting a degree and finishing debt-free seems to be nearly impossible. For many, college currently has a price tag of above $40,000, which seems a nearly impossible figure to pay off without any ongoing debt.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York stated that 37 million Americans currently have student loan debt. Two-thirds of students borrow funds to receive their bachelor’s degree, placing the average student debt at about $26,000; total student loan debt is placed at around $1 trillion.

Most students are either still in school, not paying their payments or postponing them. Fewer than 40% actually make payments on their loans. 1/10 students who start repayment default in 2 years and almost half of student borrowers put off major expensive such as cars, homes, or marriage because they simply can’t afford it with student debt.

Students should do everything they possibly can to avoid getting into this type of debt. While attending schools without loans seems to be an unapproachable option for many, it is not unfeasible. Here are a few tips on how to avoid student debt, whether going to college, thinking about college, or just out of college.

Scholarships

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It is important for every student to look into scholarships as a way to help pay for school. Scholarships are available for students through the federal government, many companies and non-profits, and even universities. Scholarships reduce the amount that a student needs to pay the school without having to be paid back.

Students can receive scholarships based on a variety of traits such as academics, athletics, ethnicity, or scholarships based on character or field of study. Ascholarship search factors in all of the elements into finding the right scholarship. After applying (and making sure requirements and deadlines are being paid enough attention), one just has to wait until the recipient is announced.

Grants

Grants are similar to loans because they both come from federal funds and private institutions but do not need to be paid back. By completing a FAFSA account, one can apply to Pell Grants ($5,500 an award year) or the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity grant ($100-4,000 an award year).  For non-federal grants, there are grants available for any situation. There are grants that are merit-based, need-based, and student-specific grants (specifically for students with disabilities, minorities, and women). These can be found by contacting corporations, organizations, employers, and a variety of groups on the national, state, and city levels.

Living on a budget

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Working during off-times from school can help one save money to pay school, along with just living on a simple budget. Many schools have food-plans that can help one reduce the amount of money spent on food, and living in a non-expensive living arrangement can help save money to pay for school.

Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing can be an alternative route to paying for college. By starting an online campaign, one can appeal to the internet to help raise funds for school. James Ward, a 19-year old, raised more than $12,000 to pay for his first year at Howard University. This new alternative can be put to use, it is not guaranteed to help pay for all costs but is worth a try to accompany scholarships and grants.

Online Alternatives

Though at first this may seem basic, another consideration to take in is obtaining a degree of any nature online. More times than not it can be a cheaper alternative to physically going to school, and the degree can be pursued at a pace the student sets for him or herself. This is particularly ideal for students who work full-time to support themselves or a family, because progress can be made on weekends or basically any time suitable for the student. An aspiring elementary school teacher can obtain proper education and certification, equivalent to that received in traditional in-classroom schooling, completely online on effective and proven sites like Accredited Online.

With the epidemic of student debt increasing, it is important that alternatives to loans are utilized as much as possible. By taking advantage of scholarships, grants, and other money-raising sources, along with a proper budget, one can make it through college debt-free.

Dave Landry Jr. is a personal finance manager and small business owner who is concerned about the state of student loan debt in the US. Dave has two young daughters of his own who will one day be going to college.

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