By Ruth Ann Monti
Unless you never take your earbuds out, you’ve no doubt heard the horror stories about student loan debt. The average college graduate left school in 2012 with $29,400 in student loan debt, according to the Institute for College Access & Success. That’s a lot of debt for people just starting out. If you’re entering college or considering it, think about how you will pay for tuition without going into (much) debt. It is possible, but you need to research and plan.
Intro by Marcela De Vivo.
Graduation, whether you’ve just earned your bachelor’s degree or master’s degree, is definitely a major accomplishment. While pursuing higher education can bring some great benefits, it can be a huge financial investment and at times a burden. For this reason, students should really think about how they plan on paying for college or graduate school. Trying to find financial aid for school can often turn into a full time job; as more and more grants and scholarships see their funding reduced, students are forced to look into more accessible forms of financial aid like student loans. More advanced degrees such as a J.D. tend to cost even more. In 2013, the average law school student graduated about $124,000 in debt. Although the costs of education can be high, it’s still a worthy investment, as statistically college graduates earn significantly more than those without degrees — and the higher your degree, the more you earn.
Paying for school can seem intimidating and challenging, but with smart saving and budgeting skills, finding funds for a degree can become the least of your worries. Student loans can be a time-saving way to find financial aid, but students should always compare and research different loans to find the ones that have the best interest rate and payment plans. To get a sense of just how much grads can end up paying for law school, and to learn some money saving tips that can help you get rid of student debt quickly, check out this infographic on law school costs.
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Higher education awaits… but can you afford it?
For all those students who have gotten college acceptance letters recently, congratulations! But now comes the next question: can you afford it? The Wall Street Journal has provided some excellent resources for calculating the cost of college, for all you parents and students trying to figure out where to go next year. First of all, I highly recommend the article Making Sense of College Aid, by Ruth Simon and Rob Barry. It provides an excellent overview of what to look out for in your financial-aid packet. For example:
Some schools don’t even mention costs in their financial-aid award letters, while other schools cite only tuition and fees, ignoring transportation, textbooks, and living expenses. Many colleges describe loans as “financial aid” or obscure the fact that the aid package includes federal loans to be taken out by parents.
There’s also an excellent online resource, How Do Schools Stack Up?, which allows you to plug in various schools and see things like ROI (return on investment), median borrowing, what percentage graduates in 4 years, the current cost including tuition, room and board and other expenses, and salaries of alumni. Lastly, at the bottom of the page, there’s a terrific interactive worksheet that allows you to compare college offers by looking at the “net price”—your total annual costs after subtracting grants and scholarships.
Good luck making your choice! It’s a tough decision, but you’ll get through it.
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