The student loan crisis collectively stands at about $1.6 trillion. It’s affecting young people’s abilities to buy a home, start a family, and save for retirement. It’s no wonder why many are trying to learn how to avoid student loans in the first place.
Even though the price of education has skyrocketed in recent years, the need for college-level degrees is still in high demand. In other words, it might not be wise to forgo college altogether despite the student loans and hefty tuition rates.
That said, you do have options when it comes to pursuing higher education and obtaining an advanced degree. Even if you are taking out student loans, there are many ways to reduce your debt overall.
Today, we’re sharing some practical tips on how to avoid student loans and set yourself up for financial success while you’re young. Let’s get started!
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How do student loans work?
Student loans are essentially bundles of borrowed money offered by the government or private lenders to students so that young adults can afford to go to college. Student loans can be put towards tuition costs, educational materials, housing, and other education-related expenses that you accrue while you’re in school.
You can apply for federal student loans and financial aid by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). As with all types of financing products, student loans have to be paid back in addition to the interest that is added on to the initial amount borrowed.
Ideally, the salary you earn after you graduate should be enough to cover your costs of living while also allowing you to pay back your student loans within a reasonable timeframe. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible for everyone anymore.
The cost of college is increasing much faster than wages are increasing, leaving many graduates with stockpiles of debt that they can’t pay down fast enough. Some federal student loans may be eligible for forgiveness or they might come with a certain level of leeway. However, private student loans offer no such benefits.
Private student loans are almost always more expensive than federal loans, and they also come with higher interest rates. Students are at the mercy of the lender, who will decide on the terms and conditions of the loan. They are also entirely responsible for all interest payments and, in most cases, students have to start making monthly payments while they are still in school.
Private lenders have also been known to go after family members in the event the borrower passes away and leaves behind an outstanding balance. If you’re curious about how to avoid student loans, remember to avoid private lenders at all costs.
What is the average student loan debt?
The average student loan debt in 2021 is currently $37,693.
Why you should avoid student loans
Student loans are expensive. The rising cost of education coupled with interest rates means it’ll take a long time to repay your debt. Even worse, you’ll also end up paying more than you initially borrowed, too.
Even though student loans are designed to be repaid within ten years, the average time it typically takes is over twenty years. Some individuals are still repaying their student loans well into retirement!
Student loans can hold you back from moving ahead in life. People with student debt take longer to get married, buy a home, start a family, and retire. Plus, student loans take an enormous toll on the emotional and mental health of borrowers.
Did you know that 67% of people with student loans suffer from mental and physical symptoms associated with and caused by the stress of this type of debt? It’s no surprise that many young people today are eager to learn how to avoid student loans.
14 ways to avoid costly student loans
From work-study programs to tuition reimbursement programs, we’re going over the top ways to avoid costly student debt and get a more positive start on your future. Take a look.
1. Start saving early
It’s wonderful if your parents were able to help you start saving for college ahead of time, but if that’s not an option for you, you can get a head start yourself! Consider taking on weekend jobs or side hustles while you’re still in high school. Put your funds towards a savings account, such as MoneyLion’s Safety Net savings account or a fully-managed investment account.
2. Take AP and college courses in highschool
AP courses and college credit classes can reduce the cost of college by helping you get general requirements and introductory courses out of the way before you even enroll in college. Some schools even offer dual enrollment, which allows you to graduate with your high school diploma and an associate’s degree at the same time.
3. File for FASFA early
Filing for FASFA can help you find out if you’re eligible for federal grants, work study programs, or other types of government-related financial assistance. However, if you file your FAFSA too late in the game, you may not be eligible to receive these benefits. Make sure to apply for your FASFA early for every year that you’re enrolled in college.
4. Apply for grants and scholarships early
Start applying for college grants and scholarships while you’re still in high school. Ask the colleges you’re eyeing about their scholarship and grant programs. Make sure you inquire about how to qualify as well. Check sites like FastWeb, CareerOneStop.org, and Scholarships.com, too. They’re solid resources for matching up students with relevant aid programs!
5. Go to a public, in-state college
For the 2021 to 2022 academic year, the average cost to attend a public, in-state college is about $10,388. The cost for out-of-state students at public colleges is about $22,698 on average, whereas private colleges cost an average of $38,185 no matter if you’re an in-state student or attending enrolling in a private college in another state. Opting to stay in the state you grew up in and attending a public school may be your best bet, especially if you’re looking to save money.
6. Start off at community college
Community colleges are a lot cheaper than four-year universities. Spending the first year or two at home and attending your local community college can help you save big time. It’s a great way to get your first or second-year requirements out of the way, and you can always transfer to a better school later on so you won’t be stuck at the same community college until you graduate!
7. Live at home
No matter what type of school you attend, if you can live at home, you’ll save a lot of money on housing costs. If that’s not an option for you, opt to live with a roommate or two and split household bills as well as other living expenses.
8. Take summer and winter courses
Summer and winter courses can shorten the length of time that you spend in college. This means you’ll spend less money on tuition, books, and other college-related costs overall. By graduating sooner than later, you’ll also be able to get a job faster. Most community colleges offer summer and winter courses, and you might be able to transfer these credits towards your requirements. Just make sure to speak with your academic advisor first.
9. Rent or buy used college textbooks
Don’t pay full price for college textbooks, especially when you don’t have to. Explore the long list of options that make it possible for you to rent or buy used books, including sites like Chegg, Amazon, and CampusBooks.
10. Become an RA
Resident assistants (RAs) are undergraduate and graduate students alike who live in student housing and help manage the residence halls of underclassmen. RAs are also responsible for enforcing residence policies and mediating roommate conflicts, as well as providing support to students living in the community. In exchange for their service, RAs receive free room, board, and even meal plans in some situations. It’s a great way to save money and network with your peers at the same time!
11. Work study program
Work-study programs are federal programs that provide students with part-time employment opportunities to help them finance the costs of college while they study. It’s available to undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, as well as part-time and full-time students. Learn more here.
12. Don’t go to college
Better yet, don’t go to college at all before considering your future field and whether your degree will help you secure the type of job you’d like to have in the first place. Do your research while you’re still in high school and look into different career prospects as well as the income opportunities that each degree can offer you in the future.
Realtors, electricians, plumbers, police officers, insurance sales agents, and other very successful professionals don’t have to obtain a four-year college degree in order to practice in their respective fields. You might find that you’d be better off if you pursued vocational training instead of attending college.
However, if you ultimately do decide to go to college, it’s important to research income opportunities in your chosen field. You might discover that receiving a more specialized degree in nursing, computer science, or other fields will take you further than a liberal arts degree.
13. Work while you’re in college
If you can start paying back your student loans while you’re still in college, you’ll already have a head start. In order to do this, you’re going to have to bring in some extra income. Consider starting a side hustle, especially one that will allow you to study while you work, will help you reduce your debt, and cover tuition altogether. Uber, Instacart, Turo, food delivery services, dog walking, local jobs, tutoring, and more are all great options.
14. Tuition reimbursement programs
Some companies offer tuition reimbursement programs to help you pay down the debt from your student loans a lot faster. This is a common practice in the military, but some private firms offer this bonus as well. Explore companies with tuition reimbursement programs here.
Start saving for college with MoneyLion
Student loans are a serious issue that weighs heavily on young graduates. You’ll get a head start on life if you learn how to avoid student loans and minimize your debt ahead of time. In the meantime, use MoneyLion as your banking resource for saving, budgeting, and more.
MoneyLion offers investment accounts and a Safety Net account feature, both of which are designed to help you prepare to pay college tuition. As a bonus, when you set up direct deposits with MoneyLion’s Safety Net, you’ll be able to unlock up to $1,000 in cash advances, all for 0% APR. Learn more here.
Do student loans affect credit scores?
Yes, student loans affect credit scores. If you fall behind on your student loan payment plan or you don’t meet your required minimum amount, your credit score could take a serious hit.
What happens if you avoid paying your student loans?
If you avoid paying your student loans, you’ll rack up interest charges and late fees, both of which will ultimately increase your debt. Your credit score will also suffer as a result. In the end, creditors will come after you. Even if you pass away, private lenders will go after your immediate family to recover the money you owe for your student loans.