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How To Manage Student Loans: A Series (Part 1)

Updated: Dec 16, 2020

The reality? Student debt continues to ravage many of us. Whether you’re on your way to college, currently in school or recently graduated, there are a lot of ways that we can understand, prepare and ultimately manage our student debt. That’s why we’ve created this series on student debt.

In part 1, we’re discussing how to prepare for student loans before you head off for college.

In today’s world, education has become the starting point for success, an expected right of passage for students who graduate high school to go on to college. But there’s a new generation of students questioning this traditional paradigm, as they heard about the crippling effects the student debt crisis is having on the generation that preceded them. Here are a few statistics that show why people are starting to doubt whether the traditional route of college is still right for them.

While wages have increased by 67% since 1970, college tuition has more than doubled since the 1980’s. That national student debt is now over $1.5 trillion dollars and more than 3 million senior citizens in the US are still paying off their student loans. A woman’s story about her student loan situation shared via Twitter even went viral for how outrageous the student loan situation has turned out to be for her. If you want to read more about this you can do so here, but as a quick summary she borrowed $38,876 from a private lender to go to school and after having paid $31,501 she still owes a balance of $47,023.

The value of a college education is an individual decision; but the one thing that is universalis that no one wants to be stuck with a mountain of student debt they will never be able to climb out of. So if you decide that college is right for you, what are some ways you can manage your student debt situation? We have a few ideas.

1. Consider the cost of tuition as you go through your school selection process.

Sure, if you’re going to get an education you might as well get the best education you can right? Of course. However there are situations where the difference in education quality is not necessarily accurately reflected in the price you’ll have to pay. Some schools have different tuition rates based on whether the student is from in or out of state. If the schools that you’re trying to decide between are relatively of the same caliber, you may want to opt for the local option to save money on tuition costs. There’s also the additional benefit of being able to save on housing and food should you decide for a year or two during your college experience that you’d like to live at home with your parents to save on those costs as well. In the grand scheme of things, these little ways to save can add up to a lot by the end of your educational journey.

2. Apply for grants and scholarships.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in senioritis and begin to live a little too care-free with all the excitement of trying to squeeze in your final moments with close friends before you all part ways to different schools. You probably feel like you deserve some time to relax and enjoy yourself because you’ve gone through so much to get to where you are now. And though that may be true, you may want to consider applying just a little more effort before you and your friends look towards your final swan song. Reason being there are grants and scholarships available for the diligent. Understandably, the application process is not always going to be easy but it’s basically free money being given away and when you factor in the amount of money you’d be getting for the time you have to invest, it can definitely be worth your while especially if you also consider the interest you’ll be saving by lowering your debt up-front.

3. Shop around for the best rates.

If you need to borrow money for college, the consensus would probably be to take government loans whenever possible since they’ll be able to offer some unique benefits. Generally federal loans tend to have better rates than you would find from a private lender and also take your family’s current financial situation into consideration. There are also options to change the repayment plan after you’ve borrowed the money. However depending on circumstances you may need to borrow completely or partially from a private lender and in these situations we highly recommend you shop around for rates. Reason being, by doing this you’re providing yourself with more options and opportunities to find the best loan terms. Additionally since you’re dealing with private lenders you can actually leverage one offer with another to negotiate to the best terms possible.

4. Understand the terms of your loan before accepting.

Some students may find it easy to simply accept everything presented to them without question and sign away almost like they would with the terms and conditions of one of their digital services. However this is something you may want to pay closer attention to. If you’re dealing with a private lender this would be doubly so as you don’t want to fall prey to predatory lending practices. Furthermore by completely understanding the terms of your loan you will be able to better plan towards repaying that loan amount. For example, some loans don’t kick in interest until after you’ve graduated. As such knowing whether or not this applies to you would be helpful in letting you decide whether or not you want to make payments towards your interest, or possibly even the principal balance, as you attend college. And speaking of which…

5. Save up before heading off to college.

Again, with high school being as tough as it is many students may feel like they have earned the privilege of having a summer off to do whatever they want and rightfully so. However, those with some foresight may be able to help themselves in the long-run by working part-time and saving up some money to help pay off their student loans as early as possible. Due to the nature of compound interest, the more you’re able to lower your balance up-front the more you’ll be able to save in the long run, and exponentially so.

Ready to take on student debt, or at least understand it a whole lot more? At MyHomePathway, we’re committed to your financial education. Click here for part 2 of our student debt series, what to do while you're in college, and make sure to follow us on social for daily tips and helpful info.