As of February 2013, there are some 37 million Americans who owe some kind of education loan. For this reason, student debt is a hot topic on the press.
At FRCC, the most common education loan students utilize is the Federal Direct Stafford Loan. Without going into the nitty gritty of what qualifies you for the loan and how to get it, let’s talk about the top 5 ways to minimize your education loan debt:
1. Apply for free aid – the more you have, the less you’ll need to borrow!
Free aid is money that you do not have to repay, such as grants and scholarships. It seems like there’s some type of scholarship for almost everyone. See our current list of scholarship opportunities.
Grants are often based on income and sometimes how early you submit your FAFSA (www.fafsa.gov) to the school. Make sure you meet the priority consideration date for your school (it’s April 1st for FRCC) every spring for the following academic year.
2. Consider on-campus work study or a part-time job.
Work study funds can be limited, but by meeting the priority deadline in the spring, you will maximize your chances of receiving the award. The Financial Aid Office has a work study waitlist, which is something we continually award off of throughout the year. If you are unsure about your eligibility, come see us!
A great alternative to work study is a part time job. For either of these options though, let’s say you work 15 hours a week for the semester, earning around $9/hour (at a coffee shop or at the campus bookstore for example). That gives you almost $2,000 for the semester – and that’s $2,000 that’s NOT borrowed money!
3. Know how class costs can vary.
It’s important to educate yourself on the cost differences between online and on-campus courses. Since the tuition, fees, and supplies all differ, it’s important to choose classes that not only fit your schedule and set you up for success, but also to choose classes that work with your budget.
4. Take courses that are applicable to your degree.
Most Financial Aid Offices have countless examples of students taking classes that are not needed for their degree. Doing so causes you to pay for courses that can be a waste of your time and money. Ensure that you work with your academic advisor to map out your academic goals.
5. Do your calculations before accepting your loans.
We know it’s easy to accept your full loan offer with the click of a button. Before you do so, take care to research what you owe the school for your chosen classes, and estimate other costs such as books and transportation. By outlining your expenses you may find that the loan offer far exceeds what you need. In these cases, accepting partial amounts of your loan can be a great compromise.