According to the U.S. Federal Reserve system, as of December 2020, Americans owe $1.68 trillion in student loan debt. That is how profound the student debt problem in the U.S. has become. To put it in even more perspective, that is about $924 billion more than the total credit card debt in the U.S. of $756 billion.
The argument has traditionally been that a college education is essential – that it is invaluable. Unfortunately, people are graduating college with a student loan debt and entry level jobs with a lower starting wage, also leads them to credit card debt. So what solutions are available for students to get the education they need, without taking on too much debt to receive it?
The Growth of Student Loan Debt
It is important to note how much student debt has grown over the last decade. EducationData.org reported that student loan balances average $37,584 and overall total student debt has nearly doubled in the past decade from $860 billion to 1.68 trillion.
Improving College Affordability
Affordability is critical. It is important to note that some colleges cost more than others. The difference between private and state colleges is staggering for tuition alone. Even among state colleges, you can reduce costs, and your debt load, by choosing wisely and comparing costs ahead of time.
There are other steps you can take, though, to reduce your total debt burden for college, including considering attending two years of community college before transferring to a university.
You can save thousands, if not tens of thousands over the course of your education by starting out at a community college for two years before transferring to a university to continue your education. You must work with both institutions from the start, though, to make sure your courses and credit hours are transferable to the university you intend to attend next.
Tips on Reducing Student Loan Debt
These are a few additional steps you can take to reduce your need to take on student loan debt when attending college.
- Take AP classes in high school and test out of the college courses.
- Take college courses while enrolled in high school can get you a head start financially.
- Choose one of the FREE colleges in the U.S. (there are a few that offer free tuition for eligible applicants, typically tuition-free colleges serve students who can verify their low-income status in a particular region or state. A few free colleges provide free tuition to students who work on campus while attending college or require stringent service commitments after graduation.)
- Get tuition assistance or tuition reimbursement from your employer.
- Consider the GI Bill. The government will pay for you to attend college in return for your military service.
- Attend college close to home and skip the added costs of campus (or off-campus) housing and meals.
It may feel like a sacrifice at the moment, but sparing yourself the debt while continuing to earn your degree may be one of the best gifts you give your adult self.