I think a major issue that potential students should consider is whether they want a “Cadillac” (pricey degree) or a “Pontiac” (public university or community college). Based on my analogy, a Pontiac can look sharp, drive well, have plenty of features, and takes you where you want to go every bit as well as a Cadillac does. The problem is – the Cadillac has a lot of status associated with it, and it contains features that the Pontiac does not have. Ergo, a very careful consideration of career objectives and personal desires should be thought out before a student decides to spend money for any college.
I would suggest trying to pay as little as possible for a degree with a vengeance, whether you go to a pricey Ivy-league school or a cheap community college. Grants are different than loans! Much different! I would rather have a grant! By far! It seems obvious but so many people seem not to realize this simple fact! Loans must be repaid!
Besides grants, other options certainly exist for paying for college without your own money or a loan:
– Employers will often pay for some college costs.
– Scholarships due to your ancestry or for just about any other reason are out there. Leave no stone unturned, but don’t expect reams of money either.
– Taking entrance exams and having the school offer money via exam performance as a scholarship can be difficult to obtain, but possible.
– Graduate students may receive fellowships or teaching assistant positions.
– Work study might be available, but this is less attractive because it costs you your time. Ideally, sitting and studying when occasionally handing someone a tennis racket or telling them where the bathrooms are in some building on campus is a good way to economize time (you have to study anyway) while getting rid of some college costs.
– “Mommy and Daddy paid for it” is also a less attractive, although popular, option. Sometimes you have no choice. I would rather have another person pay – but consider, you may be incurring a different kind of debt. Your parents expect things when they pay for it, and they probably expect a good performance whether they pay for it or not, but you are less bound by your parents when they are not involved.
– The beneficent uncle, grandparents, friends, or spouse may also fund college. Less pressure than if “Mommy and Daddy paid for it,” but also watch out for potential pitfalls.
– Inheritance. Not for many, but should you receive an inheritance, spending a small portion of it on higher education may be a good strategy for you. Consider it carefully in this instance (and in all instances, in fact).
Due to an erratic job market, specialized degrees that do almost nothing to get the job you want in some instances, and the crushing expense of paying back large loans, ‘how to fund college’ may be best done by delaying it or not going at all. Colleges love it when students borrow money to attend their institutions, but be careful that you get what you pay for. The only certainty is that you will eventually have to start paying back your loan.