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Graduating From Debt U: How to Avoid the Burden

4 Minute Read

paying for college, loans for college, college loans, college costs

“Way too expensive.” “Ruined my life.” “He won’t marry me because of it.”

And that’s just a few of the comments people have made about their student loan debt.

Recently, Yahoo! News asked its readers to give their take on the crushing student loans they have hanging over their heads. And “crushing” is not an exaggeration. The total amount of student loan debt in America is estimated to be between $867 billion and $1 trillion! The total amount of credit card debt in the U.S. is $803.2 billion, for crying out loud!

Here are some of the comments they received:

  • “Student loans have basically ruined my life. I never see myself owning a home or vehicle and maybe not even getting married.” —Tanya Carter, University of Toledo, 2008
  • “My boyfriend won’t marry me because of my debt. He doesn’t want it attached to his name.” —Lauren Dollard, Fordham University, 2008
  • “It is going to be hard to buy a house and start a family with our debt. We joke and say that our baby is Sallie Mae, but it is true! Education is invaluable, but I was not wise in my early 20s and did not make the right decisions when it came to my private loans.” —April Flores, San Diego State, 2008
  • “If I had the knowledge then that I do now, I would have paid as I went (yes, it would have most definitely taken longer but at least I would have graduated with my diploma and debt free),” —Amber Riffey, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, 2005

These are the voices of experience talking. Because they (and many others) chose to borrow for school, they are now responsible for tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt that can destroy their ability to save for a house or retirement. It’s sad that one stroke of a pen can sap so much of a person’s financial life away.

But, believe it or not, a person can go to college debt free if they do a little research and make a lot of effort. Here are five ways to get a degree without being bound to debt for years:

  • Determine a school budget. What a concept! As simple as this idea is, most people simply don’t sit down and determine where they can afford to go to school. It only takes a couple of hours, so block out an afternoon with your college-bound son or daughter and get it done. If they want to attend a college that is not affordable, say no and move on to the next one.
  • Look at in-state schools or community colleges. Some people don’t like these options because they believe they’ll be looked down on by potential employers if they don’t have a degree from a “nicer” school. That’s not true, and using that as an excuse can lead to being in a situation like those people you were reading about earlier.
  • Apply for scholarships. There are hundreds and thousands of scholarships available all across the country, and every $250 or $500 puts someone that much closer to their degree.
  • Get a job. It takes extra effort to have a part-time or full-time job while going to classes, doing homework, etc. But make that extra effort. Four years of sacrifice is a lot better than graduating with tons of debt. Paying it off will take a lot longer than four years.
  • Live small. No matter how much a person downsizes their lifestyle, it will still be better than 90% of the world. A child doesn’t need a fancy apartment with a nice car and restaurant food every night to survive in college. Live in the dorm, eat on the campus meal plan, and look for cheap/free means of entertainment.

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