Student loans are a large part of millennial and gen-z’s debt load. Now that higher education can cost as much as a house, it’s essential to explore every avenue possible to reduce your student loan debt. If you’re not sure where to look, here are a few ideas that are accessible to everyone.
Why shouldn’t you use student loans for college?
Student loan debt is one of the biggest reasons many college graduates feel unable to move forward with their lives. It can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars for those attending an Ivy League school or continuing their education for a Master’s or doctorate degree. Consequently, many find it challenging to pay for things like a mortgage or have money to pay for any other goals until that debt is paid off in full.
Student loans are tough to get rid of because they cannot be forgiven by bankruptcy. However, just because you have a student loan doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck paying it forever. If you already have loans, use tools like this monthly loan repayment calculator to establish an actionable plan for how you can pay off your student loan as quickly as possible and put that money toward other goals.
Alternate Ways to Pay for College
Work for the university
Many universities will offer free or heavily discounted tuition for their employees in addition to regular salaries and benefits. You may need to take classes around your work schedule instead of the other way around, but getting free night and weekend classes may be well worth the adjustment to your schedule.
Apply for scholarships
Scholarships are available from universities and private donors who want to ensure no one is left out of getting a world-class education. You can find scholarships for many reasons, i.e., for being left-handed, being a minority, having specific ancestral histories, and academic achievement. Ask your school advisor for suggestions or search online for scholarship opportunities.
Apply for financial aid
You may be eligible for government assistance with your higher education bills based on your parent’s income level. Be sure to fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) every year. This information is shared with the federal government, the state government in which the university is located, and the university itself. All of these entities will use your FAFSA to determine the level of assistance they can offer you for paying for your education.
If you or your parents can do so, consider paying for your education with cash instead of taking out loans. The costs for a college education are high, but paying cash upfront can save you thousands of dollars in interest later.
Take college courses during high school
If you’re still in high school, consider taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses during your junior and senior years. These classes are often free or may have a small fee for the final college-equivalency exam, but their costs are significantly lower than what you’d pay for the full course at a university. AP-level classes are often available for STEM subjects like science and math, but you may also find AP courses for electives like music, art, or theater.
The bottom line
Paying for your education doesn’t need to mean getting stuck with student loans. You can use any of these methods to avoid student loan debt but don’t forget to actively seek opportunities from your school counselor or advisor. They may have other options that can help significantly reduce your loan debt, or even get your tuition completely covered.