In 2014, 7 out of every 10 college students graduated with student loan debt. What’s worse is they had accrued on average more than $33,000 in debt. As this rises, so do delinquent payments. According to a newly released report by the New York Federal Reserve, more than 11% of student loans are 90 days or more past due.
But unlike other debt, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to discharge your student loans by filing for bankruptcy. Keeping debt low in school will help you avoid the headache of having a large monthly payment after you graduate.
Here’s 5 things you should know to keep your debt to a minimum during college.
1. Using more than you need
When someone offers you “free” money, it’s easy to forget that one day you will have to pay it back. So use only what you need. Make sure the money is going towards college tuition and books rather than late night food runs, cable bills and other entertainment expenses. If you need additional funds for rent, it’s better to find a part-time job than to use student loans. Remember, the less you take out now, the less you’ll have to pay back later.
2. Look for an affordable college
According to College Board, out-of-state tuition costs on average twice as much as in-state tuition. So look for a school that’s close to home, or at least in-state. If you are going to school at an out-of-state university, ask the school if they offer waivers. Many colleges offer some type of help for students with GPAs of 3.75 or higher.
3. Apply for pell grants
The government provides need-based grants to low-income students. Pell grants, unlike loans, do not have to be paid back and can be used for tuition and fees, books and supplies and miscellaneous personal expenses.
Additionally, many colleges and organizations offer scholarships to help off-set the cost of tuition. Contact your school’s financial aid office to find out what scholarships you qualify for and apply for pell grants online at https://fafsa.ed.gov.
4. Start making payments while in school
For most students, money is tight, like REALLY tight, during college. However, if you are able to make small payments while you are in school, this will save you a lot of money. Even though you aren’t required to start making payments on your student loans until after you graduate, your loans will still accrue interest. So make small payments each month to keep your debt balance from growing.
5. Consolidate your loans
If you’ve taken out multiple loans with creditors you can save money –and interest–by consolidating the loans. Doing so could shrink your monthly payment by as much as 30 percent. Rates can vary, so shop around and ask questions to find the best deal for you.
You can find more information on consolidating federal student loans at https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/consolidation.
Avoiding a lot of debt while in college requires discipline. Create a budget and adhere to it. Buy used textbooks instead of new, cook at home rather than ordering take out, and spend loans on educational expenses only. Doing so will keep you from drowning in debt once you graduate.
Overwhelmed with debt? Give us a shout at [email protected] to see how we can help.