Student loan debt is no joke. According to a recent article by CNN Money, more than 40 million Americans now carry some sort of debt from their education. What does that amount to? More than $1.2 trillion.
Fortunately, there are practical ways to avoid this debt, such as picking from your money tree out back. What, no money tree growing in your backyard? All kidding aside, the reality is that most of us don't have a cushion of $100,000 waiting to be spent on education. But don't let your dried up money tree keep you from earning a well-deserved education.
Start by doing your research. There are hundreds of blogs and websites available that offer helpful tips about federal education incentives, private loans and financial management programs. Whether it's a government education website or your neighbor's finance blog, these online tools are a fantastic resource for students who need extra financial help.
First, check out the various student loan options. There are federal incentives available for individuals working in the public sector, but there are also a variety of privately funded loans available. Then take a look at your own finances to determine the best fit for your needs.
Once you've read through a few of those sites and hashed out your financial plan, figure our what schools or online programs are the best fit for you both educationally and financially. Take a look at your current academic standing. Are you a new student or do a few classes or even an associate's degree on your transcript? If you fall into the latter category, maybe an accelerated degree is the best option for you.
Accelerated bachelor's or master's degree programs are a great option for individuals who are trying to maintain a balanced lifestyle while obtaining a degree, but it's also a good fit for students who want to keep education debt at a minimum. For example, a nurse hoping to kickstart her career might be looking for nursing schools in Pennsylvania, but doesn't have the time or the finances to pursue a degree for four or six years. She can save a fortune by reducing the number of months, or even years, it takes to finish her degree by enrolling in an accelerated program.
Another great option for students on a budget is online degree programs. An online education will provide you with the flexibility to maintain a part-time or even full-time job while being in school, and the cost is often much lower than compared to a traditional university. For example, there may not be any required materials like textbooks because the instructor provides notes and slides online. Additionally, there are no transit or commuter costs, and you'll save money on food and living since you'll be in your own home. The online structure also allows you to take classes when you want and gives you the freedom to work and study on your schedule. It's a great alternative for students of all types.
Taking on student debt can be daunting, but don't let it intimidate you out of a good education. There are lots of options available to all types of students and professionals, and there are even more ways to help you manage your money once you've taken on the debt. And with a good payback record, you'll secure a strong credit score along with an invaluable education.