America's student loan debt is growing at the incredible rate of $2,853.88 per second, according to a report by Reuters. Last year student debt surpassed credit card debt for the first time in history and it's expected that later this year total debt owed will pass the $1 trillion point, according to FinAid.org. If you've got it-- you're not alone and we've got tips for paying it off. But if you're about to head off to school you'll want to keep reading to find out how you can earn a degree without racking up debt.
Expert Advice from Kimberly Palmer
College tuition has been increasing every year as college budgets become tighter and school leaders look for ways to make ends meet. According to CollegeBoard.com, here is what you can expect to pay on average for tuition:
- Public four-year colleges charge, on average, $7,605 per year in tuition and fees for in-state students. The average surcharge for full-time out-of-state students at these institutions is $11,990.
- On average private nonprofit four-year colleges charge $27,293 per year in tuition and fees.
- Public two-year colleges typically charge $2,713 per year in tuition and fees.
If you're a recent college grad whose racked up some sizable loans or you're heading off to college soon, you'll definitely want to read this powerful advice from Kimberly Palmer, a finance expert, writer for US News and World Report and author of Generation Earn: The Young Professional's Guide to Spending, Investing and Giving Back.
UC: How did you get through college without debt or how did you pay it off?
Kimberly Palmer: I did what I could to earn extra money by freelancing, which helped a lot, and like most people I worked in the summer and then used that money during the year. Also, I lived at home most summers while I worked, so I could save most of that money.
UC: What advice do you have for those just starting out their college careers?
Kimberly Palmer: Don't use credit cards for lifestyle expenses - it's tempting but it can so easily spiral out of control. If you need more money for lifestyle costs, like food and travel, then try to figure out a way to earn money on the side. Using credit cards and paying back debt with interest just means you're paying so much more for everything.
UC: What about for those who have already racked up massive student loans?
Kimberly Palmer: After looking into the possibilities for various loan forgiveness programs (if you work in certain public sector jobs, for example), your best bet is just to make a plan for paying it off. Maybe it means living in a studio or having a roommate for longer than you'd otherwise like, or even moving back home with parents, but there's no way around paying off those debts.
UC: How do you think having student loan debt impacts young professionals in the workforce?
Kimberly Palmer: It is such a drag because it limits what you feel like you can do - the jobs you can take, where you can live, where you can travel. It can really negatively impact your overall lifestyle and career goals. To get around that, you have to figure out a way to take control of it, which might be just by committing to those regular monthly payments and organizing your budget around that.
UC: What are some practical ways people can get through school without debt?
Kimberly Palmer: 1) Limiting spending and 2) earning more are the best ways. Sometimes it's possible to get creative with your earning by taking advantage of a skill you have, like social media expertise or website design skills. That way you can earn more than minimum wage.
The bottom line is, take school bills seriously. Don't assume going into debt is the only way to earn a degree. Take Kimberly's advice:
- Don't take the summers off-- work hard and live at home free of charge if possible.
- Avoid credit cards at all costs. If you can't afford a spring break trip, then don't take one.
- Research loan forgiveness programs.
- Make paying off college debt your top priority.
On top of all that, search for Scholarships at FinAid.org, ask a guidance counselor or apply for jobs at companies that will help pay for your tuition. And if you've already got student loan debt, don't be discouraged. Instead stay focused on the goal of paying it off so you can enjoy adulthood without carrying a burden of the past.