Friday, June 23, 2017

11 Ways to Make College More Affordable

According to some latest statistics, there are now over 44 million Americans with student loan debt.  The average monthly student loan payment is $351.  The average student from the Class of 2016 graduated with $37,172 in total student loan debt.  By the way, these are all increases from the previous year.  I remember back in 2000 when I graduated from UC Santa Barbara, I had one question in mind all of that summer:  What could I have done to have saved more on college?  Many things came to mind simply because I was an idiot back then when it came to finances.  I've shared on this blog that I used to buy groceries from Trader Joes, and pay for my car with the loan money I had left over.  In other, I took out more than I needed.

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Fortuitously, the loans I took out were the Federal subsidized variety, and I qualified for $15K of loan forgiveness by teaching science at an urban high school for four years.  This cut my loan balance in half.  By the way, this article is one of the most comprehensive I've read on the topic of loan forgiveness.  Just be careful looking into the government job (public service) option.  I've read there are a lot of complaints.  But let's now go back to the question at hand:  What are some ways you can currently save on college expenses?  I've come up with a list of 11 ways you can make college more affordable.  Mind you, these are not going to make everyone happy, i.e., sacrifice is involved.

Let's begin with...

1.  Stay in state.  The lure of going to a university out of state is strong.  You get to be away from family, friends, and everything you know.  Being in a new place can be exciting.  But the costs for out of state tuition versus in-state are not worth it.  Stay in state.

2.  Stay local.  If you live in an urban setting with a local University (I used to live about 1.5 miles from San Jose State University), you should go to school there.  You'll save thousands of dollars over your college years by living at home.  You're obviously giving up the college life experience, but trust me, these days the college life experience is not worth the future turmoil you'll put yourself in by over-paying for college.

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3.  Share a room.  You can save between $100-$300 in rent per month when you share a room.  Grant it, the room has to be able to occupy two, and you'll never have full privacy, but this is another viable savings option you should use.

4.  Live off campus.  My little sister-in-law, Chelsea, is saving nearly $500 a month in rent by living off campus.  Cal State San Marcos forced her to live on campus her freshman year (by the way this is another racket policy of many Universities trying to squeeze out as much as possible from their incoming students) but she has since gotten an apartment (off campus) with two other college friends.

5.  Get your General Education credits completed at a Junior College.  Everyone has to do their GEs, but not everyone has to pay a premium while getting them done.  I attended two years at San Jose CC and transferred.  Made a big difference in total costs by the time I graduated!

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6.  Don't buy a meal plan.  Don't be lazy and cook for yourself!  I had the meal plan my first year at UCSB.  I ate like a pig three times a day, and at night I'd still be starving!  I'd even sneak out a banana under my shirt from time to time, and I'd still have cravings.  I paid a butt load and realized in time it was best for me to cook my own meals and save money.  My favorite was tuna with graham crackers.  (I'm not kidding).

7.  Stop procrastinating.  Take a full load of classes and even consider dual enrollment so that you can finish college in three years.  I think I read somewhere that the average length of time students are taking to finish a four-year degree is closer to six years.  Why?  The average student doesn't have a clear plan.  80% change majors at least once!'re shooting yourself in the foot taking more than four years to finish your degree.  Also, don't transfer mid-way or take unnecessary classes. 

8.  Don't miss the FAFSA window.  First, you should not make assumptions about your financial aid status and apply.  You never may qualify for some monies.  Second, don't delay.  Each year the window opens and closes.  You're always welcomed to apply for Financial Aid even after the deadline, but the pickings in terms of available funding, will be less.  So get your parents on it!  Tell them to file their taxes a.s.a.p.

9.  Buy used.  If you don't have something you need to furnish your room, get it on Craigslist.  You can find desks, chairs, lamps, TV stands, etc., on the site and negotiate on prices.  In other words, don't go get what you need at Walmart.  Unless it's cheaper to buy new.

10.  Stop spending on alcohol.  The best beer is a free beer.  So never host anything, and if you consume, always drink responsibly.  Drinking responsibly means drinking less and never driving buzzed or drunk.  Going on beer runs every weekend is a surefire way of spending more on college.  The same goes for buying marijuana from the dorm dealer.  Stay clear of drugs my little homies!

11.  Don't buy new textbooks.  What are you, nuts!?  Find someone who's taking the course with you and share the book, make copies of the pages you need, go online and find a used or older edition, or simply take copious notes in class.  These professors and their publishers get away with murder, charging $300 or more for a book.

There you have it.  College is expensive, but students are to partly blame if they consume college like it's going out of style.  If you are willing to make some sacrifices, you can get a quality education at a more affordable price.  Thanks for reading!  If you liked this post and want to receive more like them, please subscribe below:
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