Each time tuition rises, students become more dependent upon loan programs to pay for school.
But the long-term consequences of those decisions means students and graduates will spend years working to get rid of the financial strain associated with student-loan debt.
Time.com put it best: “This year, more than two-thirds of college graduates graduated with debt, and their average debt at graduation was about $35,000, tripling in two decades.”
Your game plan to reduce student-loan debt
Under the pressure of mounting debt, many look for more creative ways to eliminate it — but it's important first to recognize an effective debt-reduction strategy from one that misses the mark or wastes your time. This is why it's so helpful to understand the basic fundamentals of personal finance. For example, in Why your income is so important, J.D. Roth explains how positive cash flow is essential to reducing debt:
Keeping this principle in mind, it's easier for someone that is grappling with student-loan debt to formulate their own debt repayment game plan. The first step to lowering debt might simply be to understand the true cost of attending college. But to build out your own game plan to reduce student-loan debt, evaluate each strategy you discover to make sure it will fit your circumstances and help you keep ballooning debt in check.
Five common-sense ways to avoid or manage student-loan debt
- Be realistic when accepting financial aid. Overestimating the cost of school can lead to paying back thousands of extra dollars over your student-loan-payment history.
- Avoid borrowing more money than is necessary to pay for school. While it's exciting to receive a refund check after your school bills are paid, it's actually a temporary financial fix that comes with an extremely costly price tag.
- Pay on your loans while taking classes. Begin paying interest while in school to reduce the balance of your loans. Putting back money here and there or setting aside an amount per month to pay lenders during grace periods eases the debt burden after graduation and it's a realistic introduction to the world of paying bills. Remember this thought: The lower the interest, the quicker you begin to pay the principal balance of the loans.
- Work on campus as a work-study student, extra help, or a graduate assistant — and set up a direct-payment plan with a percentage of your check paying for school.
- Work a full-time position on campus for tuition discounts. For example, the University of Oklahoma offers tuition waivers for full-time employees' one half of tuition and several fees for up to six hours per semester or three hours per summer session.
Creative ways to reduce student-loan debt
Past the conceptual, common-sense ways to deal with student-loan debt are some ideas that depend more on your own circumstances and tastes. Frankly, they may be less solid in terms of good personal financial advice and more “creative” in nature. Some of these methods actually help, and some sound like a good idea but may miss the mark. Some may have less impact on your debt load, and others may eliminate it entirely (if you're smart about it!)
Here's what to know about some of the more creative ways to reduce student-loan debt:
1. Volunteerism with impact
An organization called Sponsor Change gives members the chance to earn money to pay back loans by completing projects that serve their community. Sponsor Change hosts design, branding, and other kinds of projects for social-impact organizations such as animal shelters, camps for kids, and libraries.
The best thing about Sponsor Change is there's no cap on how many projects you can complete. “Each project will net you at least $200, however you can raise up to $1,000 per project,” explains the organization. To qualify as a Change Agent, you must have a bachelor's degree and proof of student-loan debt.
2. Employers with student-loan-payoff programs
One of the more interesting perks offered by companies (particularly start-ups) trying to attract potential employees is to pay off their student loans. It's one reason start-up culture continues to thrive because such companies provide an enjoyable work environment a career experience that keeps on giving.
In September of last year, Gradifi, a Boston start-up that creates student-loan-payoff systems, enhanced the potential of start-up companies' appeal by publicly announcing PwC as its first client, according to Fortune. The Wall Street Journal also reported that, as of March, Gradifi had 101 companies on the waiting list waiting to develop student-loan-repayment systems for their employees.
Carefully research company policies in regards to student-loan-payoff plans to discover if the company and the criteria associated with paying off loans is reasonable to your standards. It's a good idea to run any such offer of employment past your attorney too.
3. Trade plasma for cash
Giving blood is profitable and helpful. A donor can earn $20 to $50 each time they donate plasma, explains wallethacks.com. If you have AB blood type, your blood and plasma is in high demand. According to the Red Cross, only 4 percent of the population has this blood type.
Red Cross also notes that you must wait at least eight weeks (56 days) between donations of whole blood and 16 weeks (112 days) between double red cell donations. As long as you don't mind needles, donating plasma could be a great way to earn extra money to go toward paying off your loans.
The quirkier, the better
Who says you have to rely solely on a traditional 9-to-5 job to earn money? Maybe it's time to embrace more fun (and possibly profitable) ways to increase your funds.
According US News Money, “Building multiple streams of income is no longer a luxury, it has become a necessity.” As each generation enters the workforce, the idea of leaning on one steady paycheck is less and less acceptable. Dig deeper and you might discover that one of your habits can increase your bank account!
Noticing how user-friendly sites are while passing time online is the perfect way to become a website tester. Essentially, you get paid for testing out the structure of website. Usertesting.com pays their testers $10 per test to for every 20-minute video they complete. A user can easily make $100 to $200 testing websites during a month, if not more depending on the website testing system.
Changing your eating habits can leave more money for student loans too. Research suggests that vegetarians can save at least $750 more than meat-eaters per year, according Time.com. So maybe it's time to develop a vegan lifestyle.
Even if you can't commit to going completely vegetarian for a year, try planning at least 70 percent of your weekly meals around meatless options. If you save $3.50 a day by eating vegetarian and go meatless five days of the week, that's around $70 per month, or $840 a year. Where could you be if you added this money to your student-loan payments?
More money equals less debt
Get into the habit of paying more than your minimum payment per month for loans. Some loan providers allow borrowers to pay several payments at one time, explains mygreatlakes.org.
Think about how you can make money — and then take a percentage of that money and put it toward your loans. Managing student-loan debt might take some work, but it doesn't have to take over your life. Using some of your free time now to earn money in creative ways can help you get free from student-loan debt sooner — so you can get on with living the life you've been planning.
How are you trying to eliminate student-loan debt? What's your suggestion for the quirkiest or most effective way to reduce student loans? Any pitfalls to avoid?