4 Ways to Minimize Your Student Loan Debt

Higher education is, for most people, a stepping stone to better career and financial success. That said, the steep tuition fees prevent many Americans from obtaining their degrees, or lead to them taking on large student debts. In fact, CNBC estimated that the average debt load of student loan borrowers of all ages is a staggering $39,351.

Erasing student loans is another discussion altogether, but there are ways you yourself can minimize your debt before you even step into the hallowed halls of academia. Here are our top four tips:

Apply for Scholarships and Grants

If there are scholarship and grant programs available, every student should, needless to say, take their chances. There is no harm in applying for one even if you weren’t able to maintain a 4.0 GPA in high school.

Students with exceptional transcripts and high standardized test scores do get priority in most universities and colleges. For instance, the Ohio State University-Columbus offers academic scholarships like the Eminence Fellows program, similar to Indiana University-Bloomington’s merit-based Wells scholarship. However, there are also scholarship opportunities for community service, like the Equitable Excellence Scholarship or the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards offered in various educational institutions. Finally, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund is available for STEM students with a Hispanic heritage, while incoming African American freshmen can apply for the Ron Brown Scholarship.

Explore Remote Learning Opportunities

Remote education has risen in popularity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing a wide range of students to benefit from the flexibility and accessibility of online learning. Online schools have taken huge steps in creating collaborative learning environments for their students, so there’s no need to worry about the quality of education you’re receiving. Kristina Coleman, a student from Maryville University’s online business administration degree, pointed out that she’s able to have “great interactions” with her peers and support from the faculty, despite her program being completed remotely. This support network is crucial for online universities, and Maryville’s 96% success rate of graduates forging careers in their chosen field is proof of the value of remote education.

These degree programs are also more cost-effective compared to traditional schools because you can cut costs on school supplies, housing fees, and application fees. By obtaining your degree online, you can also keep a day job while having access to a wider range of courses. This allows you to invest in your education while you’re solidifying your financial security through work at the same time.

Consider Schools that Offer Various Financial Options

Though public universities are funded by taxes, many of them remain unaffordable for students who come from low-income families. If you’re facing the same dilemma, consider universities that offer more affordable and flexible options for students.

NPR promotes need-based programs offered by The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Wisconsin-Madison for students with great financial need. Aspiring students can apply for UNC’s Carolina Covenant, which offers grants, scholarships, and even work-study options! On the other hand, the University of Wisconsin-Madison offers the same benefits through the FASTrack program. Finally, do not overlook community colleges, which allow students to learn relevant skills and earn credits so that they can transfer to a university for a lower fee.

Create Strategies for Your Loans

Before you sign on the dotted line and make things final, consider how much you really need. Student loans can be avoidable, but you have to carefully calculate all the expenses first. Maybe there are cheaper housing options off-campus or second-hand bookstores that provide what you need. Or, maybe, there is a more affordable university offering the program you want. You can minimize your debt by only taking out the amount that you can pay off at the moment.

Afterwards, study and implement our 6 Steps to Ditching Your Debt. For example, you can utilize the snowball method by paying off the smallest to the largest amount, or the avalanche method where you pay off the debts with higher interest rates first. Furthermore, look into various repayment plans offered by your university or the Department of Education.

Your education is an important investment. Consider these various financial opportunities and learning options so that you can propel yourself forward and achieve success.

Article made only for iapda.org

By Jona Simmons

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