Sunday, October 18, 2009

Starting Out Right: Graduating Debt Free

By: Jimmy Walker

Today, college students are facing a lot more than a sluggish job market and high cost housing at graduation. With rising tuition cost, limited grant-based aid and aggressive credit card companies campaigning on-campus, students are graduating with the highest levels of debt ever.

Reducing or eliminating debt accumulated in college is not an easy task, but it is doable with proper budgeting and planning.

There are two major types of aid offered to college students: grants and scholarships, which are free, and loans, which has to be repaid later. Monitoring the amount of student loans accepted each term is often ignored by many college students. When the financial aid award package arrives, students are first and foremost concerned with rather it will cover that year's tuition and fees. Not much attention goes into rather the awarded amount is too much and which awards, mainly loans, is not needed.

Preparing a budget each school term can give students an idea of how much is needed to cover necessities such as tuition, books, and personal items. Simply accepting the amount the financial aid office calculates can be very costly later.

Time Management is also a factor that can cause more or reduce college debt in the end. It's a given that colleges and universities are institutes of education. But it is also a hub for social interacting.

Allotting time for studying pays off by earning the grades that will earn students their degrees and eventually that dream job. Meeting new people and hanging out with friends can be great for social interaction. But to help with the almighty college debt, it will be a good idea to add a job to the equation. Having a part-time job in college can account for thousands of dollars that can be used in place of student loans, thereby reducing college debt.

Students must also be mindful of credit card debt and what effect it can have on their financial future and overall debt at graduation. With its high interest rate and misleading low monthly payment schedule, credit card debt is what many consider the worst kind of debt a student can pile up.

Like everything else, credit cards too have its use in the college community. On one hand, credit cards help students establish credit and earn the trust of future creditors, which is needed to lease a car or purchase a home. On the other hand, credit card spending can easily get out of control. Applying for and accepting too many credit cards can compound debt problems. Students should limit the amount of credit cards they apply for and use them for emergencies only.

With a little work, students are able to optimize their spending to reduce college debt. At the beginning of each school term, accepting less in student loans, preparing a weekly budget and sticking with it, getting a part-time or work study job, and limiting credit card usage can be the difference of $20,000, $50,000, or more in additional debt by graduation.

Leaving college with a degree is not the only things students are leaving with. Enormous debt complements most college degrees. Reducing college debt can be accomplished with a little planning.

Jimmy Walker is the founder of Find thousands of quality citations from books, periodicals, and electronic sources.

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