If you’re currently enrolled in college, planning to start college this fall, or approaching college age, you’re right to be concerned about the future of student loans. After all, tuition fees continue to rise every year, and all of the proposed “solutions” seem to be about debt cancellation instead of addressing the source of the problem.
The government is busy finding other solutions to the college debt crisis. In fact, the Biden administration appears to be considering a forgiveness plan that would erase up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower. The fact is, those who have the hardest time repaying their student loans tend to have a lot more than $10,000 in student debt to begin with. Not only that, but the rebate should only apply to federal student loans (not private student loans), and income caps will limit who qualifies.
With all of that in mind, wouldn’t it be great to pay for your education without having to incur student loan debt? While graduating without debt isn’t easy, several experts I spoke to said it’s still possible to pay for college without any loans. At the very least, the tips shared below could help you graduate while minimizing student loan debt.
Attend community college first
CPA Howard Dvorkin of Debt.com says he still urges young people to go to college, but not too far. In fact, he suggests attending a community college first, which is cheaper.
According to figures from CollegeBoard, tuition and fees at a two-year public community college amounted to just $3,800 for the 2021-2022 academic year, up just $50 from the year former. In contrast, a year of tuition and fees at a four-year public school costs students $10,740 in the same school year.
If you go to community college and live at home for two years, you’ll save money and sacrifice nothing, he says, adding that you can always transfer to a four-year school and finish your degree at that time. -the.
Dvorkin also says that students with the highest grades in community college can potentially be accepted into a school they wouldn’t have had they applied to high school.
“Once you’ve transferred, I hope you’ve not only saved some money, but are a bit more mature.” said Dvorkin. “Freshmen are notorious for money burning a hole in their pocket.”
Start planning early
Dr. Preston D. Cherry, who works as a financial advisor for Concurrent Financial Planning, says parents and students can and should begin planning for college before and during high school.
Parents can start long-term savings and investment plans with college savings vehicles such as 529 plans, he says. The money that grows in these accounts can accumulate over time and be used to pay for tuition and other eligible higher education costs.
In the meantime, some states offer tax benefits to those who contribute to a 529 college savings plan. For example, the state of Indiana offers a 20% tax credit on the first $5,000 contributed to one plan each year, which is up to $1,000 per year.
Dr. Cherry says families can also plan better early by finding out how certain high school courses could serve double duty.
“Parents and students can take dual credit courses at the high school level that transfer to state universities to reduce the college credits needed to graduate and the cost of college,” he says. .
Invite your family and friends to help you
Your friends and family members may be more than willing to contribute to college savings for yourself or a dependent if they knew it was an option. Instead of getting money for a vacation or money on a birthday card, for example, they can make the same contribution to a college savings plan.
Patricia Roberts of GiftofCollege.com says most don’t know what to buy your kids for birthday and holiday gifts anyway, and they can appreciate the opportunity to give a meaningful gift that won’t be outgrown. . Also, a gift for higher education is easy to give since most 529 plans allow account holders to invite others. There are even gift cards for this purpose, including those you can purchase through the Gift of College platform.
“Even small gifts can add up over time and can really make a difference,” Roberts says.
Get tuition assistance through your employer
Fred Amrein of PayforEd points out that some employers will help pay employees to pursue a college education. For example, Starbucks
Amrein specifically suggests checking to see if your company or a company you plan to work for also offers tuition assistance. The thing is, federal law allows employees to receive up to $5,250 a year in tax-free tuition reimbursement, and the contribution is also tax-exempt on behalf of the employer until December 31, 2025.
This means that your company is incentivized to provide this benefit and you will not be penalized for receiving it. Even better, $5,250 is quite generous and may be enough to cover a year’s tuition and fees depending on the program.
Get Serious About Scholarships
Brian Galvin, who serves as director of studies at Varsity Tutors, says students who want to avoid or minimize debt should treat their scholarship search as a part-time job.
There’s a lot of money for scholarships, but very little money will find you, he says. Not only that, but most students who get all or most of college don’t do so with a full scholarship directly from the university, but with several small scholarships from companies, non-profit organizations for-profit, local civic groups and other sources.
These sources exist, says Galvin, but it’s up to you to find them by using your guidance counselor, doing research, writing essays, and attending local women’s club and rotating club events where they discuss scholarships.
“The darker the scholarship, the less competition there is, so searching for scholarships really pays off.”
Never stop trading
Finally, Travis Hornsby of Student Loan Planner says students who want to minimize their borrowing should focus their energy on negotiating their financial aid package. For example, you can ask your school’s financial aid office to use “professional judgment” to determine if you may qualify for additional aid.
Hornsby says this can result in several thousand reductions a year on your tuition bill, and with no extra work on your part aside from time spent applying.
“Colleges are cutting prices heavily, and just knowing that will save you a lot of money,” says Hornsby.