Modern Alternatives to Taking out Student Loans

Career success today largely depends upon having a college degree. In fact, graduate degrees are even becoming a necessity for some careers. But, undergraduate and graduate school can take a heavy toll financially on students after graduation.

College graduates typically have an average of between $13,000 and $30,000 in student loan debt upon completing their undergraduate studies, leaving many forced to return home until they can get a handle on their debt and find security in their first jobs.

Fortunately, students do have alternatives to taking out student loans if they’re willing to put in the legwork to find those opportunities. The first step for any student, who needs financial assistance, is to fill out the FAFSA form, which will determine whether he or she is eligible for grant money. Grant money is a financial gift that, unlike a student loan, the student does not have to pay back. Many colleges and universities also offer grant money for financially needy students, with some grants put aside specifically for student-athletes, students who excel, and so on.

In addition to grant money, millions of dollars in scholarship money is available annually from scores of sources – private organizations, non-profits, local towns and cities. Unfortunately, thousands upon thousands of dollars go unawarded each year for a lack of applicants.

If you need money for college and don’t want to find yourself debt strapped upon graduation, start researching scholarships early and often. You’ll find hundreds of sites – like www.fastweb.com – that list legitimate scholarship opportunities. You can also talk with people you know; perhaps a parent works at a company that offers scholarships for employees’ children. Your college career office can also be a valuable source of information.

College tuition is expensive whether you opt for a private or a public university. Many students have discovered the savings and financial benefits of starting their college careers at a local community college. Community colleges often offer the same courses at the same level of instruction for a much lower per-credit rate.

Students generally work with career counselors to ensure their credits will transfer to a four year school, and many schools have scholarships and grants dedicated specifically for transfer students.

Even if you’ve already racked up the student loans, you might be able to have them forgiven. Teachers at low-income school districts can often have a portion of their student loans forgiven while graduates can receive a maximum of 70 percent loan forgiveness through the Peace Corps. A comprehensive list of loan forgiveness programs and eligibility requirements can be found at The U.S. Department of Education or FinAid.org.

You can also consolidate your loans to make your loan payments more affordable each month. To learn more about student loan consolidation, check out the Federal Student Aid website.

A college education is a huge investment of your time and your money, but debt from student loans doesn’t have to become overwhelming. You do have options, if you’re proactive, for keeping your debt down and paying off the debt you do have once you graduate.

George Gallagher writes for popular finance and education blogs.  He is currently in the midst of helping students find ways to pay for the fall semester, including private student loan options.


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