Recent statistics reveal that the average student loan debt for Americans under age 30 in 2012 is almost $21,000. The nation’s student loan debt keeps rising without college students understanding the risks involved. While student loans seem like easy money to a young college freshman, there are some critical points to consider. Most students expect to have a job offer upon graduation, but what if there is no job available? This is a grim reality for many recent college graduates in today’s economy.
The unemployment rate for Americans age 20-24 is two thirds higher than the rate of the entire American population. Many companies are giving jobs to the older, more experienced applicants. Additionally, the average starting salary of recent college graduates has decreased. A student might get into a situation where he or she cannot afford a $400, or even $200, monthly student loan payment. Finally, student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. So, if your financial situation gets really rough and you have to file bankruptcy, you will still have to pay back those student loans. The only situation where student loans do not have to be paid back is upon your death.
So how exactly can you graduate college with no student loan debt? Most students do not believe that is possible, or they believe that the only way to avoid student loans is to be the perfect student and get a full college scholarship. However, there are many ways to reduce the cost of college and to save money, so student loans do not even have to be considered.
Start Working Early
The first step a high school student can take to start saving for college is to start working as soon as possible. It does not matter if you are flipping hamburgers at McDonald’s or delivering newspapers, any job that will allow you to save money will work well. Even though you may not make much money, every little bit helps.
Start Saving Early
Save, save, save! Try and save as much as possible, whenever you can. Implement a percentage that you save out of every paycheck or monetary gift you receive. While in high school and not living on your own, you should be able to save at least 50% of your income. Grandma sends you $100 for your birthday? Sock $50 away into your savings account for college. Pretty soon, these small amounts of money will add up to a significant chunk of change.
Apply For Scholarships
As a high school student and as a college student, apply for every single scholarship for which you qualify. Even if you do not think your chances are good, apply anyway. Who knows, maybe everyone else thought their chances were not good either and they didn’t apply.
Consider community college for your first two years of college. Community college is significantly cheaper than four-year colleges and universities, and they offer the basic classes you need anyway. Once you get to a four-year institution, then you can take the more specialized classes for your major.
Work during College
Every student in college has the capability to work while in school; many students just simply choose not to work. It is quite easy to at least work part time while taking college classes. Every college and university offers on campus jobs to students, many of which do not require much effort. You can even do your homework and study at some jobs, for example, as a computer lab monitor. If you are really tight on cash, consider working full time and going to school part time. It will take longer to finish college, but at least you won’t be a college graduate with a huge student loan payment and no job.
Join the Military
This suggestion is not for everyone, but another suggestion is to join the military. For the student that would enjoy the military, this is a perfect opportunity to get college paid for completely. Many military programs will pay for you to go to school and require some military training throughout your college years, and you will be an officer when you graduate.
Consider a Co-Op
Finally, an often-overlooked solution to avoid student loans is to join your college or university’s co-op program. In a co-op, a student typically goes to class for one or two semesters, then works full time for a semester, goes to class again, and the cycle continues until graduation. This is a very helpful way to save a large amount of money to pay for your tuition. Companies that participate in co-ops typically pay more than companies that hire part time workers. If a student implements at least some of these suggestions, he or she should be able to save quite a bit of money for college and graduate debt-free.
Jessica Bosari is a freelance writer and blogger for various publications and her own blog. You can read more of Jessica's work here. If you have any comments or questions about SavingTools.com or about saving money, leave your comments in the form below or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!