Facing the cost of college on a budget
Consider the following statistics: The cost of getting a higher education has risen substantially faster than the general inflation rate over the past decade. For the 2016-2017 school year, tuition and fees average over $7,100 at four-year, in-state public institutions; at private colleges average costs are substantially higher — over $32,400. Add thousands of dollars for room and board, supplies, and transportation, and it's clear that attending college has become an increasingly expensive proposition.
How do students cover these costs? Some are fortunate enough to receive help from relatives; others apply for financial aid. Nearly 70% take out student loans to cover the cost of higher education. In fact, college students graduating in June 2016 finished their studies with average loan balances topping $37,000.
If you're a student faced with the daunting task of paying for college, here are three tips for getting a college degree without taking on a mountain of debt.
- Postpone school to define goals. Many young people start college without a defined goal. They jump from class to class, major to major, all the while spending money on credits that may not count in the long run. Holding off on school, getting a job in a field that interests you, and saving money for college may provide a better return for your education dollars. Many former students have learned that a few years in the workplace can provide a taste of the "real world" and motivation to pursue an education more vigorously.
- Consider community college. Attending a local junior college for your first two years may substantially reduce overall college costs. In addition, you may benefit from smaller class sizes and a shorter commute. Just be sure to confirm that local college credits will transfer to the four-year institution of your choice.
- Live at home while attending school. Foregoing on-campus accommodations can slash thousands of dollars from college costs. Though not a decision to be taken lightly, residing with parents or other relatives while attending school may enable you to obtain your degree with minimal debt. And without ongoing loan payments, you'll be in a better position to start your career on a solid financial footing.