On Monday I recommended the new book by Alex Chediak called Beating the College Debt Trap. The book is filled with helpful advice and practical wisdom, especially for the Christian student. For instance, here’s a helpful checklist…
Checklist for Getting a Degree Without Going Broke
1. Save what you can in advance. If you save money before college, the power of compound interest works for you, producing larger wad of cash with which to pay college costs. If you borrow money during college, compound interest works against you, as you have to pay back more that what you borrowed.
2. Know as much as you can about yourself and your chosen major before going to college. This awareness can help you avoid needless and expensive delays on the path to graduation. And it can motivate you to make the right professional moves during college to enhance your success after college.
3. Try to get your first year’s worth of credits debt-free (using AP or IB classes, community college, CLEP testing, less expensive online courses, and prior savings). If that’s not possible, limit yourself to no more than the subsidized federal loan (see Trap 5).
4. Don’t take out $10-$15K of loans each year just to say you attended a prestigious university. Instead, pick an affordable school of reasonable quality that accepts you (see Trap 3). Websites like CollegeData (www.collegedata.com) and the NCES College Navigatior (www.nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/) let you compare the generosity and affordability of different colleges. Apply for financial aid early in the financial aid application cycle. With regard to quality, conciser the college;s academic cycle. With regard to quality, consider the college’s academic and the school’s relationship with prospective employers. Look at what the college offers in the way of Career Services and whether they have co-op program (discussed in Trap 6).
5. Alternatively, accumulate credits at multiple colleges (for example, by starting at a community college). But try to avoid taking duplicate classes or losing time waiting for specific classes. Depending on the sequence of courses required for fer, you may need just as much time to graduate (if course A is a prerequisite for course B, which is a prerequisite for course C, and so on).
6. Consider whether your parents or other realistic can contribute a donation or an interest-free loan to help with your college expenses. Go there before going to the government.
7. Delay any unsubsidized loans until the last year or two, when graduation is clearly in sight. Avoid borrowing more than half your anticipated salary and stay below the cumulative limit on federal loans. Yes, this is possible!
8. Avoid private loans like the plague!