A guest post from Patricia Shuler -
Take a bite out of your student debt load with these simple tips
Your college years are a tight squeeze, financially—your expenses have never been higher, and your earning power isn’t much more than it was when you were flipping burgers in high school. For most students, that means debt, and lots of it. These money management tips can save you thousands of dollars over the course of your university experience—dollars you won’t be paying interest on when you’re 35. I’ll only mention money-saving moves that will save you over $1,000. There are other ways to cut costs, but these are the big ones.
1. Submit a FAFSA
This is a huge one; a Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) provides access to Pell Grants and subsidized student loans that can make college affordable for almost anyone. If your parents aren’t paying for your college tuition, make sure to mark that on your FAFSA, and you will almost certainly qualify for a grant (unless for some reason you’re already earning middle-class wages after school).
If you’re working a low-paying, part-time job, you can generally qualify for $5,500 a year in Pell Grants, along with $10,000 in yearly subsidized, low-interest student loans—loans that don’t even start accruing interest until you graduate. Over the course of a four-year degree, that adds up to $22,000 in no-strings grant money, along with $40,000 in subsidized loans if you need them.
2. Pick a starter school
If you plan on attending an expensive school, there’s very little reason to complete your general education requirements there. Instead, pick a smaller, two-year school that will provide an “Associate of General Studies” or similar degree for a fraction of the cost, and then transfer to your dream school. Four-year universities generally waive the general-education requirements for students transferring with a two-year degree, so take advantage of the savings. Once you’ve brought home that degree from Stanford or Georgetown, no employer is ever going to ask if you were a transfer student.
Depending on how pricey your school of choice is, this option can save you tens of thousands of dollars over two years, and if your high school grades were less than stellar, it gives you an opportunity to boost your GPA and qualify for better financial aid.
3. Don’t pay full tuition for your internships
In order to work without pay legally, you have to be enrolled at school so the company you intern for can justify the internship as “training”. But the good news is, most companies don’t care what school you’re enrolled at during the internship, and most community colleges will let you enroll in a dirt-cheap summer “class” to cover your internship period, so you don’t have to pay summer tuition at your prestigious, expensive university. Even more so than finding a starter school, this tip is almost always a good idea.
4. Ditch textbooks, buy a tablet
The average student spends $1,200 on textbooks every year—many of which are unhelpful, and almost none of which will be resold at a fair price. Meanwhile, e-book versions of textbooks are routinely priced at one-half to one-third the cost of hard-copy editions, especially if you go with “rental” versions whose rights expire. Over the course of four years, buying e-book editions at half price will save the average student $2,400. Tablets won’t replace laptops, at least not for a couple years, but the extra money you’ll put down for a tablet will be made up in textbook savings within the first year.
Patricia Shuler is a BBGeeks.com staff writer from Oakland, California. She’s an admitted tech-junkie who’s quick to share her honest opinion on all things consumer electronic—including up-to-date news, user reviews, and “no holds barred” opinions on a variety of social media, tech, computer, and mobile accessories topics.