The Skinny on College Debt

Do you have to go into debt to attend college? Many people say you do. A quick glance at the finances of most recent college graduates would further prove their point: Debt is normal, even unavoidable, in today’s college culture. But is this entirely true?

If you do college the “normal” way—attend four years, right out of high school, without a strategic plan—debt may very well be inevitable. But with a plan, a lot of work, and some patience, it IS possible to greatly reduce how many loans a student takes out. Better yet, some students graduate completely debt-free!

How to Avoid Excessive Debt

If you’ve been receiving these emails since 9th grade, you know how much I encourage an early plan for post-high school education. The academics, tests, scholarship applications, and jobs your student participates in throughout high school can all contribute to a debt-free education:

  • Academics: A high GPA results in more scholarship dollars.
  • Tests: the PSAT (10th grade) can result in National Merit scholarships, and standardized tests scores, in general, are a big factor in academic aid.
  • Scholarships: Applying for scholarships during the summer (see last month’s email) is a great way to fund higher education.
  • Jobs: Working before and during college is the best way to gain practical experience, network with people of influence, and save money for extra expenses in your college journey.

Other ways to reduce or prevent debt are dual enrolling (saves money and time), CLEP testing (same effects as dual enrollment), and work-study (working for the college as you study).

For some students, even these methods aren’t enough to prevent excessive debt. In these cases, I suggest studying online or at a local college part-time while paying your way through full-time work. You can combine all these methods into a strategic plan and with work and patience, you CAN graduate debt free.

Is education an investment?

The big question for many of us is whether college is actually worth the money invested. Is it really necessary to succeed? Not always. Some students find more fulfillment in attending trade schools and starting their own studios, salons, or businesses. Many go the entrepreneurial route. College is not necessary unless it specifically equips a person for the calling God has placed on their heart.

That said, higher education IS an investment, but it can be a good or bad investment. A good investment provides a substantial return. A bad investment leaves you “in the red”—the case for many college graduates today. To determine if your student’s current plans are a good investment, consider these tips:

  • Explore the starting salary of jobs in your intended major; does your major provide a good return on investment (ROI)?
  • If the starting salary would be difficult considering the number of loans you’d incur, what courses can you dual enroll, CLEP, or study online to reduce costs?
  • Are you working? If not, how can you earn money to pay for books and extra college costs?
  • Have you applied for scholarships? If not, start this week!

For more helpful info on college debt, read this article.

Questions? Email [email protected].