It’s a pest, a party pooper, a mood crusher. It’s a looming cloud above your head nudging your arm away from the new arrivals at H&M or the must-have video game you’ve been itching to play. No, it’s not your conscience (well, it might be), it’s college tuition and it’s not going away any time soon. Having surpassed $1 trillion in 2012, the student loan debt clock keeps ticking. Each year, tuition rises and loan amounts increase, placing a burden on the wallet and the mind. As students prepare for graduation, the fear of not securing a job becomes real, as does the concern for cost of living and loan repayments. But, fear not– there are simple yet effective ways for students to borrow less during school so that the amount is not as intimating come graduation.
Now, of course, some of these ways are nuanced like going to school in-state, applying for financial aid and scholarships, starting out at a community college or even living at home. Chances are the typical college student has already considered a few, if not all of these options, and is still facing a mounting wall of loan debt. Rachel Rowan from Tuition.io adds a few more savvy college saving tips to the list, suggesting students:
- Consider working throughout school
While it’s a nice idea to be able to be able to devote 100 percent to their studies and not have to work, realistically that may not be the best approach to take. If students can work part-time while in school to chip in for expenses so they can borrow less, many will be much better off in the long run.
- Minimize borrowing
It may be tempting to borrow beyond what is needed for tuition and books just because it’s available. Many like to create a financial “buffer,” but it’s important to think very carefully before over-borrowing. Think one word- interest.
- Understand the loan agreement
Far too many borrowers don’t understand what they’re agreeing to when they take out a student loan. Read everything closely before signing it and ask as many questions as needed to understand what the terms of the loan are. Student loans can last from 10-25 years (or even longer if you’re struggling), so they are not something to enter into lightly.
But, even still, carefully selecting a loan provider might not be enough. A student can ask all of the necessary questions and still end up with a $10,000 loan per year. And it can be disheartening. Many students live well within their means, spend carefully and save often, but still cannot escape high debt. Mary Thompson of CNBC offers up new unconventional ways for students to save on tuition. She suggests students:
- Take online courses: According to The University at Albany, The State University of New York by offering massive open online courses (MOOCs) at universities, tuition costs could be cut by a third. MOOCs have been around for years, but improvements in interactive technology, a tech-savvy generation and a desire by schools to keep costs under control, all appear to be coming together to form an inflection point for their use.
- Find a helping hand in a crowd: Because families are contributing fewer savings to pay for their college students’ education, some students are looking for crowdfunding with online platforms like Pave. A new phenomenon, companies like Pave link investors with approved applicants. The investors are interested in putting their money to work in people, rather than products or companies.
- Seek Alumni to fund start-ups: These days a growing number of alumni are doing just that, investing in companies started by students and graduates of their alma maters. As the number of student entrepreneurs increases across universities, more alumni are stepping in to help with funding.
So fear not college student, the future is bright and your pocket light—lighter, anyway. The cost of college shouldn’t be a deterrent because there are always little things that can be done to ease the strain and cut the cost. Now, whether or not students take advantage falls into their own hands, but the well-informed can sleep soundly knowing there are simple solutions to borrow less and slow the clock. It’s just a matter of planning accordingly and seizing the opportunity.