Making a decision to go back to college is a huge financial commitment. Whether you have help in the way of grants and scholarships, the odds are good that you will have to get a student loan. A student loan is a great way to be able to pay for college, but it's not free money. Before you start college, you need to be aware of how much debt you are getting into and understand the total cost of your college education.
A new requirement for anyone applying for a student loan is a net price calculator. It has been put in place by the U.S. Department of Education and it is a great tool for figuring out exactly what your degree will cost. In addition, by knowing the real amount, you can look for other ways to help fund your education as well, allowing you to lower your overall cost.
Recent reports show that 82 percent of college students receive some type of financial aid and 53 percent receive loans that they will have to repay. Although the figure is high, what is really concerning are the number of students who get student loans but don't complete their college courses. Without a degree, those loans become even more difficult to repay.
In an article by Reuters, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development discussed the reason that students quit before finishing their degrees. According to them, the United States is last when it comes to the number of students who actually complete college once they started. The most common reason they found was that students begin to question how much their degree is actually going to be worth. Especially over the past few years since the job market has been tough and many graduates struggle to find jobs. For some students, it seems like a better idea to leave college rather than continue to incur more debt.
So, how much does college cost per year?
Students at public four-year colleges pay $16,900 without aid and on average, $10,200 with aid.
Students at private four-year colleges pay $32,700 without aid and $16,900 with aid.
For those who want to complete their degree, get more job training or who are starting college for the first time, there are several ways to save money and keep the student loan debt low.
Attend a community college for two years and then transfer to a larger school - This saves money for the first two years, which are typically spent taking the basic college courses. If you keep your grades up, transferring to a larger school is easy and many community colleges offer transfer programs for new students. This way, you can take the classes that are related to your major at a larger school without taking on large amounts of debt.
Attend state universities rather than for-profit schools - Although online colleges and degree course are a great idea, there are many state schools that offer great distance learning programs. The tuition at a state college is often considerably lower than a for-profit school, so make sure that the difference in offerings is worth it.
Find scholarships - There are many websites that make it easy to search for scholarships. Sometimes these scholarships can be easy to apply for, while others have specific guidelines. Take a look and see if there is something that is right for you. Even a small scholarship can help take the edge off of your college debt.
Getting a college degree, whether through a traditional college or an online degree program, can be a great investment in your future. Just be sure that you go into it with a clear understanding of the costs and the loan debt that you are taking on.
Do you have student loan debt? What other ways do you know of to lower the cost of college? Please share your thoughts in the comments.