In this guest post, Audrey wanted to share with Student Loan Sherpa readers some tactics for avoiding student debt. She focused on technical school, but much of the advice applies to all college students.
College can come with a big price tag: over $35,000 in student loan debt for the average graduate. Technical schools often offer a shorter course of study and fewer years of tuition to pay—but they aren’t free. If you’re choosing this path, consider the following four smart ways to finish trade school without ruining your finances.
1. Financial Aid, Scholarships and Grants
Federal and state programs offer aid to students who come from low-income families. FAFSA is perhaps the best-known government student aid program; but there are others, such as grants and scholarships from the Office of Vocational and Adult Education and the Advanced Technological Education Program. The good news is that obtaining one form of aid does not disqualify you from applying for other kinds, making it possible to receive financial assistance from more than one source.
There are also various scholarship and grant funds that are specifically created to help trade school students. Some scholarships and grants are for more specific technical fields of study like welding. Other scholarship funds serve women, disabled students or ethnic minorities, such as Native Americans, African Americans or Hispanics. Current or former military members, their spouses, and their underage children can apply for a number of government and private funding options. Some technical schools even grant discounts to students in this position.
2. Borrow Wisely
You can borrow money without going into long-term debt if you do so wisely. Borrowing from the government before turning to private lenders is the best course of action, as private lenders have higher interest rates and less favorable terms and conditions than the federal government. For example, private loans seldom allow for forgiveness, deferment, or forbearance.
3. Reduce Living Expenses
Assess your finances wisely to determine how much you can realistically spend every week. You do not have to starve yourself but you should avoid eating out all the time and spending a lot of money on shopping and entertainment. Living with your parents instead of paying for your own apartment could also help you save money for tuition and books.
Taking on too much work while studying can result in lower grades that may lead to a loss of scholarship funding. However, it is possible to take on part-time work while keeping grades high if you are willing to forgo some free time. Many trade schools offer flexible class schedules, which is great for students who must work while going to school.
Don’t Get Stuck with Student Debt
Student debt is financial baggage that you do not want to get stuck with. It can take years to pay off, thus making it hard to buy a home and start a family. It usually cannot be discharged under bankruptcy proceedings, which means that you’ll be forced to repay every last cent of your loans. Thankfully, you can avoid this crippling form of debt by tailoring the points outlined above to meet your specific needs.