How to Avoid College Debt
College tuition and fees have hit the roof. In fact, cost has become one of the most important deciding
factors when deciding whether or not to go to college.
According to College Board, the average tuition and fees charged by public and private non-profit four-
year colleges in 2011-12 ranged between $8,244 and $28,500 per year. The cost was considerably lower
in public two-year colleges, at $2,963 per year.1
However, that’s not the entire cost of attending college. Add to that associated costs like room and board,
books and supplies, transportation, and personal expenses, and you have provided yourself with a yearly
bill that can run into tens of thousands of dollars.
Naturally, not everyone has pockets that are large enough to support this kind of expense, no matter how
worthy the cause. That’s why every year, many students resort to taking out loans to finance their
education and end up piling up a huge debt by the time they graduate.
College debt may seem like a necessary evil, but believe it or not, avoiding it is not as hard as it sounds.
Taking stock of your resources and planning ahead is the key to avoiding college debt. If you’re on the
threshold of starting college, here are some tips on how to avoid college debt.
Look for tuition financial aid
According to College Board, most students receive some sort of financial aid, and this is what helps make
college education remain within the reach of many families. Our federal government spends billions of
dollars every year in scholarships and grants for deserving and qualified college students. Though the
amount of grants/scholarships varies, it can actually pay amounts up to the full tuition and fees of a
college education for qualified students, depending on the award.
In addition to federal financial aid for those who qualify, state governments, professional bodies, military
and individual colleges also run financial aid programs that students can take advantage of, if they qualify.
Another means of avoiding college debt is to hasten your graduation. Just think about it: the less time you
spend in college, the lower your cost will be. And how exactly does one graduate early, you may ask? A
couple of ways to graduate early from college are:
• Taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes in high school to earn college credits.
• Enrolling in accelerated degree programs that can be finished in less-than-normal completion
Choose your college wisely
It might be tempting to choose a college that’s thousands of miles away from home—after all, it maybe
your first brush with independence. But there are certain benefits of staying close to where you grew up.
First, out-of-state students have to pay a surcharge for attending public four-year colleges and second,
many students find it possible to cut down on college expenses like room and board by staying put at
home. It’s an option you should consider if money is really tight, because what’s important is that you get
the education you deserve, even if it means missing out on the whole “college experience.”
Consider going online
Online courses provide yet another means of avoiding college debt. Not only do they turn out to be more
economical as compared to classroom-based programs, but online degree programs also often allow
students to keep a full-time job and pay their way through college.
You can choose a fully online school or take online classes from a brick-and-mortar college. As long as
your degree is earned from an accredited institution, most employers accept degrees from online
institutions. Moreover, some employers provide tuition assistance to their employees, and you can use
this benefit to finance your attendance at a legitimate online degree program.
Student credit cards are a reality of modern-day college life, and even necessary to some extent. But
having this kind of spending power also means that you must learn to use it responsibly. Every year,
college students pile up a huge credit card debt. When added to the already mounting debt from their
student loan, it can put them into a bad financial situation once they graduate.
Therefore, it’s important not to be credit card–happy when paying your bills. As far as possible, keep it for
emergency situations or big expenses, and use cash or a debit card to pay for your daily bills.
You should also make sure that you pay your credit card bills on time, not just to avoid late payment fees
and interest charges, but also to build a good credit history.