A college education is important for a variety of reasons, as college graduates typically earn higher salaries and have access to more job opportunities than those with high school diplomas. Additionally, unemployment rates are lower among college graduates — and those with a bachelor’s degree or higher are less likely to rely on government benefits such as SNAP and Medicaid.
While there are numerous benefits of obtaining an academic degree, it’s no secret that college is expensive. According to Justin Song of ValuePenguin, U.S. students enrolled in public colleges paid an average tuition of $20,770 during the 2017-2018 school year — while those attending private colleges paid around $46,950. Most students spend 20 years repaying their student loans, but some graduates with professional degrees take 45 years or more.
If you’d like to further your education but can’t stomach the thought of making student loan payments for the next 20 to 40 years, there are some steps you can take now to minimize long-term college debt. True Sigma presents some tips you need to keep in mind.
Apply for College Grants, Scholarships, and Affordable Loans
To keep education expenses down, one of the best things you can do is apply for college grants and scholarships whenever possible. Grants and scholarships can be used to fund your college education, and the best part is they don’t need to be repaid upon graduation. Anna Helhoski of NerdWallet offers some tips on searching for scholarship opportunities and applying for state and federal grants such as the Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), and Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant.
In addition to applying for grants and scholarships, low-interest student loans can help to minimize long-term college debt. Use Bankrate’s online guide to compare student loan interest rates and learn about the different types of student loans, including private loans, Direct PLUS Loans, Direct Subsidized Loans, and Direct Unsubsidized Loans.
Compare Affordable Online Degree Programs
Thanks to the internet, many college degree programs can be completed online — allowing you to learn from home and save even more on college tuition, room and board, transportation, and other learning expenses. Some benefits of obtaining an online degree include:
- Cost-effective tuition rates and high ROI.
- Flexible schedules that fit into your busy life.
- Accelerated learning programs, if desired.
- Access to scholarships and financial aid.
An accredited online school offers affordable programs in areas such as business, teaching, information technology (IT), healthcare, and nursing.
When looking at the various degree programs offered by numerous online universities, it’s important that you lock onto something that you’re truly passionate about. Going back to school is a big deal, and it can get very expensive. As such, you want to ensure you’re positive about the field in which you want to study. That way, you won’t have to worry about paying another round of tuition fees to go back to school for something else. Talk to friends and family, or discuss the matter with an advisor from the university.
Determine Your Eligibility for Work-Study Programs
In addition to comparing affordable online degree programs and applying for financial aid, you may be able to participate in the Federal Work-Study program. Depending on your eligibility for this type of financial aid, Work-Study could enable you to earn money for your college education and reduce long-term student debt. To qualify for the program, however, you must complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), apply early, and demonstrate financial need.
Get the Most From Your Education
College isn’t cheap, but you’ll get the most out of your education if you show up for your classes, participate in classroom discussions, study well for your exams, and complete your homework assignments on time. Going back to school is an exciting time, but it also takes work. Remember to make the most of it while staying on top of your game.