In today’s society, no child is left behind, each participant gets a trophy, and everyone thinks they deserve everything that their neighbor has, even if they can’t afford it. Because of this, education has been a topic of major debate.
You have some concerned that education is too expensive now, putting out of reach for some. Some of those even believe higher education, at least to an Associates degree, should be government funded. Then you have many people do not think about education enough, and just accept the concept and decision that the only way to go too school is to fund it with student loans.
I am here to tell you that you can go to school DEBT FREE. If you have already finished school and you are in student loan debt, there is a way out.
For the next few weeks, we will cover the financial side of education and work through everything from preparation of the student and parents, going to school debt free, getting out of student loan debt if you are already there, and more topics to start a dialogue and the thought process of the possibility of a debt free higher education.
This week we will look at student loans and some basic college facts and talk about having a plan.
(These figures are based on graduating with a bachelors degree from a 4-year university)
With all of these numbers, it is easy to see that the college mindset will more than likely change and evolve over time. But as with any decision, the biggest part of making a good choice is planning. These facts show that changes will happen, and while these are simply averages they are a great representation of the student loan debt that can easily become attached to these changes. So how can you best pursue higher education and avoid going in debt to do it? Well, you need to have a plan.
Here are 3 steps to planning ahead for higher education:
First, make sure you have a plan for a degree.
While statistics can vary, most will report that nearly 50% of students go into college with an undecided or undeclared major. With this information, its no wonder that nearly 75% of all college students end up changing their degree. This “I’ll figure it out later” mentality is what kills people in their decisions. For example, when you shopping for a car: if you go to a lot with no idea what type of car you want, what features you need or what your budget is, that salesman is going to do his best to take you for everything he can. And if you change your mind in a year or 2, you will be so far upside down you won’t be able to do anything. You wouldn’t walk down the isle unsure if you were making a good or right decision would you? Thinking you would just change your mind a couple years down the road? The emotional and financial implications of a divorce are devastating. So, why 50% young adults think its okay to start college without a plan is beyond me.
If you need to take a year or two off to decide what you want to major in, then do that. Work and save some money, explore some options, but most importantly: pray that God will show you where He’s called you. Once you have a good idea of a degree you would like to pursue, then you should start applying.
Click here for a great article on Forbes on why going undeclared is such a bad idea.
Second, start thinking about how you are going to pay for college.
If you’re lucky, your parents have been financial savvy and have some or all of your college set aside. However, according to Sallie May, only 30% of college costs are covered by the parent’s income and savings. So, how will you come up with the remaining 70%?
There is federal financial aid (if you qualify), grants, but most importantly: scholarships. There are thousands of scholarships out there for just about everything you can think of, you just have to find them. We will go into more detail about scholarships in an upcoming post.
You also could be working your butt off through highschool (and most especially in the summers) to save up everything you can. Continue working throughout college to pay off anything you are still responsible for. Most students can have about 12% of their college expenses covered by their own income and savings. And working doesn’t mean lower grades. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) discovered that students working 1-15 hours per week have a higher GPA than students who don’t work at all.
Third, figure out where you want to apply to.
One of the biggest myths out there is that college is as much about where you go as it is the degree field you are working towards. 95% of the industries out there don’t care where you went, they just care that you did go and you learned what you needed to while there.
One option is to go online. Online degrees hold the same weight as other degrees, KNOWLEDGE. This knowledge will transform into job opportunities and career paths.
Another option is to start at your local community college. Its cheaper and you can get your electives out of the way.
Your third option for a smart college path is to simply go to an in-state college. Staying in state is at least half the cost of going to an out-of-state public school.
Coming out of college with a degree should be a time of excitement, uncertainty (in a good way), and celebration. However, with the AVG student debt upon graduation being $30,100, these emotions now change and the focus is just finding a position so you can now pay for these loans. By putting the 3 tips we discussed into practice, you can help make sure you don’t start your adult life with the tremendous burden of doubt.
Just make sure to plan. Plan for the experience, ups and downs, change, and cost of college but most of all plan to gain all of the knowledge you can while there, because that is what carries past the school and that is the reason for going.
Charles Moore is a veteran, rocket doctor, financial coach, and blogger. If you’ve decided its time for you to suit up and fight for your financial freedom, check out his website at www.CAMFinancialCoach.com where you can get information on the coaching process, package options, and an unbeatable library of knowledge on winning financial battles.