Student loans and credit card debt may start out as a manageable undertaking but if left unpaid can quickly avalanche into a crushing burden, impacting every area of your life. These types of personal debts can quickly ruin your credit score and impact other aspects of your life like personal relationships or mental health. The good news is that with careful planning, creative thinking and proactive budgeting, earning a degree—without the debt—is an achievable goal.
Set a budget
Whether you're a new high school graduate or recently decided to return to your education after taking time for life, having a plan of action will save you time and money in the long run. It might seem tedious at first, but setting a budget, identifying your existing assets (like your savings and any investments) and assessing your available time will help you select the education path that makes the most sense.
Do you have money saved away? Do you currently have a job that can help pay for college? A budget helps you know how much money you are earning, spending and saving, so you'll know how much you can spend on college. Figuring out how much money you can realistically dedicate to your education (which sometimes means cutting down on eating out and buying new things) will help you determine the arrangement that's best for your income and savings. If you don't know how to set a budget, check out our checklist!
Do your homework
Next, think about why you're going back to school. Are you trying to switch careers? Earn more money? Learn a new skill? Do research to find the best program for you—one that will help you achieve your goals—and find out how much it will cost. Not all programs are priced the same, and some are much more affordable than others so be sure consider your choices carefully.
In addition to looking for a program that will help you reach your goal, consider some of the other factors in your life. If you need to balance a full-time or part-time job or family responsibilities with going to school, you may want to consider flexible education options such as online programs. Online programs allow students to take courses on their own time, while they balance a full-time job, families and personal priorities. This means that you can get your education on your terms without having to make major adjustments to your schedule.
Consider other non-loan options
Many colleges understand that their students may need support in paying for school, so be sure to talk to the admissions team at your school of choice to learn about options that don't involve loans. Some schools may have no-interest payment plans or offer grants and scholarships. Grants and scholarships likely won't cover an entire program, but they are a great way to get a head start on an education without debt. It never hurts to reach out for more information, and it might lead you to a way to pay for college that doesn't involve loans.
Bottom line: Flexibility and planning is key
Balancing your personal, professional and collegiate life is do-able, with a bit of planning and dedication. You may have to adjust your spending budget, but earning your education without the crushing student loan debt is worth it! When in doubt, ask for help. Most colleges have trained professionals on staff to help you see what a degree will cost you, and provide guidance on how to get there financially. By taking the time to set your budget and find the right degree program now, you'll be able to save time and money in the future — and finish college without student debt! Check out our Tuition fee calculator by choosing a program of your choice.