Next to purchasing a home, college will probably be one of the biggest financial investments you will ever make. It can be scary thinking about spending $10,000, $20,000 or even more money each year you are in school (yikes!). That’s why it’s so important to understand how the financial decisions you make now can affect your future. Sure, you could plunge blindly into the college waters and hope that you stay afloat, but why should you when there are so many free online tools available to help? Before you make any decisions regarding your future, check out these five tools that can help you make smart college money decisions and put you on the path to a healthy financial future.
Do you know when you should start looking for scholarships to help pay for your college education? If you’re like many people, you may think that you have to wait until your senior year of high school to start winning free money for college. Unfortunately, that couldn’t be further from the truth, and it’s a myth that could cost you thousands of dollars in financial aid. Every year, we hear stories about students who waited too long to start their scholarship search. You probably know a few of them. They’re the ones frantically applying to every scholarship under the sun between March and May, hoping that they will win enough money to cover the gap between their financial aid offers and the cost of their dream college. Most will be faced with the tough decision of choosing an alternate school or taking on more student loan debt than they anticipated. Neither is a decision you should have to face.
Many high school students can’t wait to leave the nest and fly far away from their parents once they finish high school. Unfortunately, the cost of attending an out-of-state college usually puts the brakes on those plans. It can be difficult for families to cover the gap between in-state and out-of-state tuition fees, but there are a few ways to reduce those expenses. One way, of course, is to establish residency in the state prior to enrolling in school. Most families, however, won’t want to uproot everyone for the sake of one child, especially if one or both parents have stable incomes in their current home state. It’s also not convenient option for those with multiple children who plan to attend college. Thankfully, there are other ways to reduce the cost of out-of-state tuition that doesn’t require packing up and moving away.
Whether you’re a high school student, current college student, or returning adult learner, you need to have a college financial aid plan in place. Why? Well, for one thing, finding money to cover tuition, books, housing and other fees will not be limited to your freshman year of college. You will find that the amount of money you need to cover your college expenses only increases over time. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for your financial aid package. In fact, you may find that the money your school offered as part of your admissions package decreases as you get further along in your degree program. This is known as front-loading and some colleges and universities use it to entice you to enroll at their schools. That is why it is so important to ask about long-term financial aid support when researching potential schools.
Can a student loan be discharged? It’s a common question among those saddled with student loan bills, especially with so many college graduates still struggling to find high-paying jobs. The short answer is “yes,” but it’s not a simple or easy process to undertake. In fact, a study by Jason Luilano suggested that in 2007 there may have been as many as 69,000 borrowers eligible for student loan debt relief, but fewer than 300 actually attempted to have their loans discharged. One reason fewer borrowers may try to have their debt erased is the urban myth that it’s impossible to achieve. Recent studies, however, suggest that up to 40 percent of those who attempted relief through bankruptcy actually succeeded. Another obstacle may be the perceived time and money involved. Last year, there were reports that it took one borrower 10 years to have his loans partially discharged, but this is not the norm.