Enrolling in college can often feel like a double-edged sword. It can be an excellent investment in your future and provide you with more opportunities throughout your professional career. On the other hand, the costs can be high – forcing you to rely on student loans to cover at least a portion of the expenses.
The trick is to limit how much you borrow. With loans, you have to consider the amount you need to repay, plus interest that is accruing at the same time. Since student loans typically have longer repayment periods, the interest can add up quickly – even with favorable rates.
To prevent yourself from becoming overloaded with student debt upon graduation, find ways to reduce the amount you need to borrow.
Options to Help Offset College Expenses
When looking to reduce the cost of college, it’s important to remember that every bit helps. Every dollar you do not have to borrow (and pay interest on) is money saved in the long run. Start by reviewing these quick tips:
- Scholarships. Since you don’t need to repay scholarships, they provide one of the best ways to reduce the amount you need to borrow. A scholarship is a type of financial aid from various organizations, like corporations, charities, local businesses, and colleges. The amount awarded can vary from a full ride to a college or university or, more commonly, set dollar amounts such as $2,000. Begin your scholarship search by visiting your school library or career center. And make sure to apply directly to Eagle's Annual Scholarship to not miss out on your opportunity to win $4,000.
- Grants. Scholarships are often merit-based financial aid, whereas grants are usually based on financial need. Grants are typically awarded by federal and state governments or the college’s financial aid department. Like a scholarship, you do not need to repay grants – they are essentially free money.
- Live at Home. Typically, the most expensive part of college isn’t the tuition; it’s the room and board and other living expenses, such as meals. Choosing to live at home throughout your college career could significantly reduce your reliance on student loans.
- Employer Education Reimbursement. Many companies offer partial or full tuition reimbursement as part of their benefits packages. If you plan to work while in school or currently have a job and want to obtain a degree, finding a position at a company that offers tuition reimbursement could dramatically lessen your education costs.
- Live Off-Campus. Depending on the school, room and board can be quite expensive. You may be able to significantly reduce the amount you need to borrow in student loans by living off-campus. Usually, the further away from the school you live, the cheaper the rent. Just make sure you have access to transportation to and from school.
- Consider a Roommate. When living off-campus, having a roommate to share the costs of rent and utilities can be a lifesaver. You may even consider a couple of roommates depending on the size of your living space. It’s important to select a roommate that can meet their financial obligations – not just someone that would be fun to live with. You don’t want to be forced to cover their portion of the expenses should they not pay.
- Take Courses Online. Advances in technology are making online learning more mainstream – and affordable. Many universities now offer online courses, with some schools being entirely online. Plus, this option allows you to live at home while in school, further cutting down your school costs.
- Get a Job. Working during school can be challenging, but it does help to reduce the amount you need to borrow in loans. Even picking up a part-time job can help. Start by looking for on-campus opportunities as these tend to be more flexible with school schedules and often offer discounts, such as at the school bookstore.
- Work During the Summers. While you may be looking forward to time off, working a summer job is a great way to offset some of your school expenses. Every bit of your summer earnings you take back with you to college is less money you need to borrow that semester.
- Take Summer Classes. Consider taking some of your classes during the summer. With a shorter semester, these courses are sometimes cheaper during the summer than during fall or spring semesters. Plus, you may even be able to graduate early as a result.
- Take Intro Courses at a Community College. Classes at a community college tend to be cheaper than at state universities. Consider taking some of your intro courses at your local community college and then transferring those credits to your university to save money.
- Get an Associate Degree First. As mentioned before, community colleges tend to be less expensive than state universities. By getting an associate degree at a community college and then transferring to a state university for your bachelor’s degree, you can significantly reduce the amount of money you need to borrow.
- Create a Budget & Stick to It. While in college, you will likely have limited income. Instead, your income is the money available through your student loans. That is why it’s so important to keep and maintain a budget. You don’t want to frivolously spend money now that your future self will have to repay in the coming years.
- Take College Courses in High School. If you maintain good grades in high school, you may qualify to take college courses in what is known as concurrent enrollment. Usually, these credits will transfer to your future university and reduce the number of courses you have to take and pay for at college.
- Open a 529 Account. If you’re a parent, opening a 529 account for your child early and making regular deposits is a great way to save for college. The investments grow tax-free, and you can use the funds for most education-related expenses.
We’re Here to Help!
College is an exciting time full of new friends, opportunities, and experiences. As your credit union, we’re here to ensure you have access to all the financial tools and resources you need to make your college experience rewarding and fun.
Whether you’re looking to open an account before heading to school or you want to learn more about managing your money away from home, we’re ready to help. Please stop by any of our convenient branch locations or call (949) 588-9400 to get started today.
Each individual’s financial situation is unique and readers are encouraged to contact the Credit Union when seeking financial advice on the products and services discussed. This article is for educational purposes only; the authors assume no legal responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the contents.
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