College on a Budget


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College on a Budget!

College costs are going up and scholarships and grants don't seem to be keeping pace. For most, that means that student loans are the bridge to a college degree. Stafford loans, Perkins loans, Plus loans, private loans - they all are available and they all have to be paid back. Unfortunately for many that means that you graduate and start your first job $20-40,000 or even more in debt. Students graduating with an advanced degree may have as much as $100,000 in student loans to pay.

There are a few methods that will allow you to minimize your student loans and begin your working life without being buried under a mountain of debt. The first thing to consider is where you are going to school. Naturally, everybody wants to go to their first choice college and for many, that is a private, high-profile, high-cost college. According to Collegeboard.com, the average cost of attending a private college during 2007-08 is over $23,000 per year. For a public college or university, the average cost is a bit over $7,000 and for a two year community college, just over $2,300.

If you are interested in getting through college without a lot of debt, try opting for a local state college or university, especially for the first couple of years. Resident tuitions are usually much lower than that charged to out-of-state residents. Take your basic courses there and get great grades, then you will have a good chance of transferring to the name school and getting even better financial aid, since you have a proven track record. Of course, once you've been there for awhile, you may just decide that it really is a good school and continue on to finish your studies there.

Cheaper still, go to your local community college first. Many courses will be transferable to a four year college, and the cost per course is far below that of the four year schools.

There are, of course, many other ways to lower the debt load of graduating college. Consider joining the ROTC program. That is the Reserve Officer Training Corps, which can provide you with full tuition as well as a monthly living allowance. Of course, nothing is free and the price of the ROTC program is a commitment of at least four years active duty in the Armed Forces as an officer. Some careers, such as Air Force pilot, may require a longer period of duty.

If you don't want the full time commitment of the ROTC programs, there is also the possibility of joining the National Guard. Students joining are eligible for tuition assistance. In addition to the federal assistance, often states, colleges and universities offer assistance beyond the Federal Tuition Assistance Program.

If your passion is teaching or medicine, many states have set up loan forgiveness programs that will relieve you of a certain amount of loan repayment in return for you teaching or practicing in certain districts that designated as low income or that have inadequate medical care available. Check with your state higher education office to see which programs are available in your state.

The Federal Government also allows loan forgiveness for teachers under certain circumstances. Check http://studentaid.ed.gov/PORTALSWebApp/students/english/teachercancel.jsp?tab=repaying for more information.

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