As an adult ed. teacher, I had the privilege,across years, to educate individuals who had the potential to succeed in higher education.They had the desire, the motivation and the work ethic to thrive in such an educational environment. Yet, most often than not ,when I nudged them to continue their studies, the answer was almost always the same : “I can afford it”. My response was: ” if there is a will, there is a way; this is one of the very few positive debts with high return to your investment”. Here are some basics I pointed out in order to assist them with their ambitious career plan:
Enroll in a community college with transfer programs towards competitive universities;the two years you are going to spend in order to get an Associate Degree will be time well spent;use it to crystallize your career choices while you are in a small and more sheltered environment where you can prepare for a more demanding university coursework.The tuition is inexpensive by comparison and you earn credits towards a bachelor degree conferred only by universities. It is almost synonymous with a “free ride”
Maintain a high GPA which is a general requirement for scholarships. Apply to as many scholarships as you can even to those you hardly qualify in terms of the mission. Many scholarships are not granted because applicants are reluctant to apply to those for which they do not meet requirements. So organizations are willing to bend the criteria for a strong candidate.
Understand and focus on FAFSA, money given by the government to low economic status students. It comes under the form of grants and low interest loans.The term of the loans are very advantageous and the interest on them is tax deductible once you start paying.
The FAFSA package typically includes a work study which often times means a campus job subsidized by the government. This is a win win situation because it allows you to gain work experience while you earn money that helps you cover your living expenses.
Consider staying home with your parents in order to save the housing costs that account for a large share of your college expenses. Although , most are not enthusiastic to stick to the family at a time when they want to explore and spread their wings, however this is a financially sound decision. If you consider that living with the family is a too great of a sacrifice,at least do yourself a favor for your financial future and share the room or the apartment. You can also apply for an RA position on campus.
In the end, let’s face it, you will still finish college with some debt, as hard as you tried to minimize it due to the continuous increase of college tuition. However, the college loans are worthwhile and should be considered the best investment in your future.
As I reiterated to my kids over and over again going to college is non negotiable.