Thoughts on college finances: loans, grants, community college
I have worked in college education, pretty much since I graduated from college. At times I have been a full-time college employee, at other times I have been a part time employee. I have also been able to work a number of “real world” jobs along the way – construction, roofing, wood finishing, painting, teaching – so I am not a complete academic. Today, I thought I would share just a few thoughts about college, specifically about paying for college.
Community College can be a nice option – not necessarily the most exciting option, but certainly practical in terms of saving money. There are two ways to take advantage of the relatively low cost of community college. One is to simply stay home, work a part time job and knock out your first forty or fifty credits. This is not a lot of fun if you are looking forward to getting away from home or if you plan to participate in college athletics. However, it is possible that you could earn your associate’s degree and save up almost enough money to pay for your junior year at a four-year college after two years.
Another way to take advantage of community college is to begin to earn credits while you are still in high school and then continue to pick up classes when you are home on summer, Christmas and spring breaks. You can save yourself almost a year’s worth of expenses at a four-year college by using this method.
It is possible to graduate from college debt-free. However, the education that you desire might require some financing depending on your area of study. My rule of thumb is that $20,000 in student loan debt, especially if it is subsidized debt, is not too bad. The payment on this amount is manageable and it is relatively easy to accelerate loan pay-off. Furthermore, delaying your college education could end up costing you more than $20K in the long run.
If you think that a particular school or course of study is going to leave you college loans in excess of $20,000, then you need to reconsider your options.
I am amazed by the number of college students that I observe who do not work at all while in college. Almost every student is able to work ten to fifteen hours a week without negatively affect one’s studies. I have even known students who earn high marks even while employed thirty or forty hours per week. Obviously, working twenty plus hours a week is not an ideal situation for everyone, but if you can simply earn enough to cover expenses – laundry, clothes, a little food, walking-around money – you will be ahead. There is no need to constantly beg for money from your parents.
I once knew a college administrator who counseled a single-mother to take out a second mortgage on her home in order to send her son to a private college. Very bad advice, very bad advice
There is a lot of government money available in the form of loans, subsidized loans, state grants, Pell grants, etc. Remember that while this money is a help to many students, the ultimate truth is that government aid has primarily contributed to the meteoric rise of the cost of a college education.
I do not know when it became “necessary” for college students to take expensive vacations at a time in their lives when their whole life is a vacation, but college students do not need to go to Mexico on spring break, cruises in the summer or ski trips to Vail at Christmas. I know that to an 18, 19 or 20 year old, college might seem hard, but it is nothing like real life. College campuses are more or less resorts with all-you-can-eat food, free entertainment, work out facilities and places to hang out with your friends. Save your money for when your really need a vacation after working a real job during your first few years out of school.
Parents, do not give your college-age child a credit card to take to college, especially one for which he never sees the statement or pays off the balance.
Athletic scholarships are nice, but there is far more scholarship money for students who have high academic numbers. Encourage sports participation if that is something that your child enjoys, but be balanced in your approach.
I could go on all night . . . feel free to ask questions.
Article by Stew
Photo by SBA73