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The cost of a degree includes more than tuition plus room and board. Even more, the costs don’t end when you graduate but continue to add up as long as you’re paying back student loans.
Know the Real Cost of Your Degree
According to Bankrate.com, medical schools is the most expensive. Tuition ranges from $114,268 to $139,298. You’ll need 13 to 19 years to pay back student loans at an average monthly cost of $1,145. A four-year degree will only cost you roughly $52,596. But at $319-$355 a month, you’ll be paying back those student loans for 18-22 years.
Understand the Cost of Borrowing Student Loans
Many student loans offer an income-based repayment plan. In these situations, the cost of your degree is tied to your earning potential. The more you earn the sooner you can pay off your loans and avoid excess interest.
The longer you take to pay, the more it costs in interest. Those with advertising degrees can pay their loans off in 5-6 years; engineers and economists in in 6.5-7 years; while accountants and microbiologists need 9.5-10 years. With payments ranging from $560 to $992, this takes a substantial portion of your budget and increase your interest costs over time.
Figure Out Your Living Expenses and Make a Budget
Today more than ever, college students are going into even more credit card debt just to meet their living expenses while in school. That’s because they don’t have a budget. Even if you live on campus and have a meal plan, you’ll need to budget for items like clothing, transportation, and recreation in addition to books and school supplies. If you’re planning to live off-campus, you’ll need to budget for housing and food as well.
You can find some great tools online to help you create your college living expense budget. Once you know how much it’s going to cost you to live, you can start looking for some practical and creative ways to pay for it all.
Practical Ways to Pay for College Without Going Into Debt
1. Employer Tuition Reimbursement
Look for jobs that offer tuition reimbursements. If you’re already employed, this is a great way to pay for an advanced degree. Check your employer’s requirements to find out if reimbursement is available to part-time employees, or if you must work a certain number of hours each pay period. Also, an increasing number of companies are starting to offer student loan repayment benefits.
2. GI Bill
Consider military service before you go to college. In return, the GI Bill will cover the cost of tuition and fees at public universities. Even if you choose a private college, the GI Bill will cover a substantial portion of your costs. You can have housing expenses reimbursed if you’ve been on active duty and meet other requirements.
3. Enroll in a High School Early College Program
Many public school systems offer an early college program where students can earn an Associate’s degree along with their high school diploma. For schools that don’t offer the early plan, many allow students to take university-level courses. Other schools offer IB and AP programs that can translate into college credits. These programs let you earn 1-2 years of college credits at no cost. That’s a savings of 50% off the cost of your college degree.
4. Attend a Tuition-Free College
Residents in many cities qualify for free tuition at local universities and community colleges. Many focus on specific degree programs and some require you to work on campus, in public service, or a local school system. Not only can you get a degree, but the work requirement gives you practical work experience along with your degree.
Creative Ways to Eliminate the Need for Excessive Student Loan Debt
5. Start With a Less Expensive Community College
At a community college, you can earn an Associate’s degree and complete almost half of your credits toward a Bachelors. The cost to attend a community college is only about one-third of the cost of a four-year university. Make sure that your credits will transfer. Before you enroll in a community college, ask the university you’re considering if they accept credits from the community college. While you can use student debt to pay for community college, you should do your best to earn these credits without debt.
6. Enroll in an Online University
Online schools are generally less expensive than brick-and-mortar colleges. You’ll save money on transportation. You won’t have to pay for room and board. Since most online schools use digital text and resources, you’ll also save a significant amount of books and supplies.
7. Take Advantage of Loan Forgiveness for Public Employees
The College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 provides student loan forgiveness for people who’ve worked in public service for at least 10 years. So, even if you have to borrow student loans to pay your tuition, you can eliminate the debt and interest payments later.
Get a Debt-Free Degree
You can minimize the cost of borrowing to pay for education, or you can eliminate the need to borrow altogether. Free tuition and high school college programs allow you to earn free college credits simply by being a resident of a certain city. The GI Bill and the College Cost Reduction act require military or public service. Knowing the cost of tuition and student loans, you can decide on the best way to pay for your tuition now or later.
Author: Jeff Gitlen