While there are many benefits to a college education, it can be costly. While studies show a degree will greatly increase a person’s earning power over the course of their career, like everything in life there is no guarantee that a degree will provide absolute financial security and stability in the future. With the costs of daily living expenses like rent/mortgage, transportation, food, etc. (especially in certain parts of the country) it can be a daunting task to graduate with debt. But there are ways to get help while in college and also when graduating.
Some ways to ease the cost of a college education is to consider attending a state school, living at home verses on campus or attending community college for the first two years to finish general courses/prerequisites. Then when the college student is a junior they can always transfer to another school if they want.
In other countries such as the United Kingdom, students take a “gap year” between school (high school) and university. It gives them time to figure out what they would like to do, save up money, travel and have some real life experiences before dealing with the pressures of starting a career path. This make their future college experience more beneficial as they know what they want. It also can lead to few changes in the student’s major while they are at school.
There are an increasing number of grants as well as scholarships to apply for as well. Not only may a college offer them to some students but there are also companies in the private industry that offer financial aid to high performing students. One of the key benefits to these scholarship programs is that the application process is always free, and the financial aid never needs to be repaid!
In addition, learning a trade or skill is also an invaluable asset. In fact, many companies will pay for the training or apprenticeship if a candidate stays employed with them for a period of time. A trade or skill is also a permanent, lifelong form of job security, regardless of what career path one may take later on. We will report on this more in the future.
To drive home the idea of attending a community college or trade school for the first two years or so, it saves children and parents money, allows them personal growth opportunities within school leadership organizations and more one on one guidance due to smaller class sizes. More importantly, after transferring to another college or university, students may graduate debt free which is a huge opportunity for starting a life of financial freedom. It may allow someone the chance to buy a home, start a business or to start their own family.
Other thoughts for students to save money on college tuition include looking for local scholarship opportunities in their community, staying on track to graduate within 4 years, inkling at home to reduce expenses, looking into need based aid by applying for FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and purchasing only what you need when leaving for college and then considering further necessities as you go along. Those tend to be more significant steps, and can lead to thousands of dollars in savings over the case of a 4 year degree.
Smaller ways to save money include fully using the meal plan so there are no extra meals or points left at the end of the semester, checking for student discounts often, skipping out on unnecessary school supplies, learning to budget wants verses needs and researching often for more ideas on saving money.
The bottom line is that each and every step a student takes can help a student save money. Then those funds can be used to pay down debt, and hopefully either allow the student to graduate in a much better financial situation. But as we noted, almost every study shows having a degree (or a vocational type job) will lead to much greater earning power over the course of years. In fact, someone with a bachelors’s degree will earn about 75% more over their lifetime than a GED only.