It’s no secret that college degrees help you get ahead in life–if you use them right. It’s also no secret, however, that college degrees are expensive, and are becoming an increasing burden for any student who attends a university. Roughly 8 in 10 people are in debt–a frightening statistic–and bad debt can lead to even greater cycles of loans, high interest rates, and more debt. It’s something to avoid at all costs, so even a worthwhile loan like a college degree is something to weigh carefully. If you don’t want to spend the rest of your life burdened with debt, then you need to make some smart moves when it comes to your college choices.
There’s more than one way to save money on your college degree. If you’re feeling stressed and burdened about the cost of a degree, don’t be discouraged! There are ways to save money on your tuition, and they don’t all include “applying for scholarships.” You know that hoping for a scholarship is like hoping for the lottery, so don’t put your hope in off-campus scholarship opportunities. Instead, focus on a few things you can control about how you plan to afford your degree, right here and now. Before committing to a college, career plan, or loan program, consider each of these four ways as an effective measure for saving on college tuition.
Invest Ahead of Time
You may not be financially prepared for your degree. You may be setting a few years aside to work and figure out what you want to do, and that’s a worthwhile plan. Don’t let this time go to waste, however. Besides working and figuring out your dream, you should be taking advantage of investment opportunities. You probably didn’t have a parent or grandparent start a college investment fund for you (if they’d been able to, you might not be so worried now) but you can do something similar for yourself. It doesn’t have to be a huge amount of money. You could look for stocks under 5–meaning stocks that are priced under $5. While your investment won’t be able to cover your tuition instantly, within a few years, it could help with your immediate loans and living expenses. If you keep your investment open, you could continue to use it to pay off tuition in the future. Even a little extra income will help soothe your mind about your financial responsibility.
One of the modern miracles of college learning, online courses are an excellent way to save on tuition. While you won’t get a #dormlife experience, you also won’t have to put up with drunken, rude roommates, greasy cafeteria food, and professors who waste your time in class. With online learning, you can streamline your learning process to make it more effective. A self-paced course can sometimes be completed in half the time, if you’re dedicated enough. Online degrees are designed to fit into your schedule, so if you’re ambitious and disciplined, you can use their time-saving approach to your advantage. Online degrees are also an excellent way to earn the second half of your degree while you work on the side. If you wanted to attach a master’s to that degree in business, you could take advantage of a UMass Online MBA. Online tuition is often much cheaper, and you only have to afford a laptop, an internet connection, and your current place of residency.
Another way to save money, but still attend a university in person, is to commute. This isn’t an option if you have your heart set on a college out of town, unless you can live with a grandmother, aunt, or cousin (and get your housing situation approved by your college.) There are, however, probably plenty of great campuses near you. You’ll find that the cost of room and board adds a considerable weight to your financial burden, and eliminating this extra cost could serve you well. If you’re able to drive to campus, stay for your classes and favored events, and then drive home for the night, you’ll get a great campus experience without paying the extra cost. It may be worth your time and money to invest in a car, however, since you won’t be able to borrow your parents’ car for every event you’d like to attend, and a basic bus route won’t leave you any time for night time activities. In order to not miss out on campus fun, consider getting your own car. Whether it’s a Lexus dealership in Montgomery, AL or a reliable used car you found on Craiglist, the right car could help you save thousands of dollars in the long run.
Choose a High-Paying Career
Your loan will be less of a burden if you choose a degree that pays well and hires quickly. A nurse or a software engineer will have an easier time paying off their loans than someone who majored in theater or 19th century Russian literature. As a software engineer, you can expect to make almost six figures. A nurse, likewise, will have no shortage of work, and the salary is great. Plus, as a nurse, you’ll experience a rewarding career. You might work in the pediatrics ward, a New Jersey state-of-the-art treatments and cancer care services clinic, or the ER. No matter where you end up, your job will end up saving lives, and that’s just one more reason to consider nursing as a career.
Your college degree is an important step in leading a better life. You wouldn’t want to waste your time or potential, but you also wouldn’t want to make the wrong move and cripple a productive future. Don’t allow yourself to be saddled with a degree you can’t use, or a university that charges more than you can pay off. If you can earn scholarships from your college of choice, you’ll have a section of debt paid away. Even the best scholarships, however, can’t pay off every loan, so it’s important to think your finances through very carefully before attending any university. With the right plan, you can save, learn, and grow–all while maintaining a financially stable future.