The value of a college degree continues to rise in today’s economy. Unfortunately, the cost of a college education continues to rise as well. Many students turn to student loans to cover the cost of their education.
“Taking out a loan to pay for your education is an investment in yourself and your future,” says Suzanna de Baca, vice president of wealth strategies at Ameriprise Financial. “At the highest level, it's a very positive use of debt. But like any debt, you do want to make sure you are not taking out an excessive amount, and that you will have the ability to repay it.”
Careful planning can help not only in securing a student loan, but also making the repayment amount more manageable. Consider these steps to arrive at the right amount:
Calculate the full cost of college: The cost of education is not only books and tuition. Be sure to include items like housing, food, transportation, student fees and school supplies. Check with your college to find out if your major requires any special supplies. Don’t overlook costs like computers, software and cell phones.
Borrow in relation to your expected salary: Ideally you want the total amount of your student loan to be equal to or less than your expected first year salary. Making an estimate on your earning potential at age 17 can be a bit difficult. The US Department of Labor offers salary averages for a variety of professions. Sites like NerdWallet.com also offer some expected salary tools based on major and college. Mark Kantrowitz of FastWeb.com and FinAid.org points out that this planning will pay long term benefits. “If your total student loan debt is less than your annual income, you’ll be able to repay that debt in about 10 years.”
Finance your education, not your lifestyle: In planning for your college needs, plan frugally. Every student would like nice spring break trips and a decent entertainment budget. Look at what you actually need, not the luxury items that would be nice.
Get advice: Look for financial advice from as many trustworthy sources as possible. Ask your parents and school financial ad officers. Friends who are a couple of years older and already in college can give you some useful real world examples of typical and recurring college expenses, as well as pointing out any odd and unexpected expenses.
Think long term: Most students, or adults for that matter, don’t consider the long term impact of repaying a loan. Calculating the future month-to-month costs of repayment is a critical an often overlooked step. Sites like FinAid.org and PayBackSmarter.com offer repayment calculators.
Consider Other Financial Resources: Before applying for a student loan, make sure you research other financial aid resources, including grants and scholarships. These sources of funding are free money and do not have to be repaid, considerably reducing your student loan costs.
Weigh Your Loan Options: By now it should be apparent that the amount you need to borrow includes factors other than just the cost of college. All students have heard horror stories of college graduates facing a mountain of student loan debt. In planning your student loan needs look at the differences between Federal and private loans. Federal loans often offer protection and options not available from private organizations. The flexibility and options of Federal programs may make a significant difference in the future. Find more article