by Charlotte Wood
(last updated February 21, 2009)
In today's world you need a post-secondary education to go far in any field. Whether that education be community college, trade school, or a four-year university, it's universally understood that you need more than a high school diploma to get anywhere.
The problem with this, of course, is the fact that post-secondary education is so expensive. With most schools having tuition starting at $11,000 and up (of course there are always schools that are an exception), it's almost impossible to get through school without scholarships or loans and it's another obstacle to exit school with a load of loans to pay off. How do you deal with debt so early?
First of all you need to decide if loans are the way you want to go. Are there other options for you? Is your education at your chosen school worth the resulting debt? Will your career be able to pay off your loans in a reasonable time frame? Is your family's financial state conducive to receiving additional aid or subsidized loans? If a loan is what you want to do then you need to know a few key facts.
Federal loans are the safest route and are the most secure. You can get subsidized interest if you qualify and they're typically more affordable than alternative or private loans. I'd try and avoid private loans if at all possible simply because the interest rates are higher and you take a much higher risk with your credit by taking out alternative loans. Like with any other loan, borrow only what you need and nothing more. That way you can keep your debt more manageable and you won't be frustrated with yourself later on because of extra money you didn't necessarily need but borrowed anyway.
If you can help it at all, don't use loan money for everything. Apply for scholarships and grants and save money during the summers. The more you can finance your schooling without loans the better shape you'll be in debt-wise. While taking out loans for your schooling is a worthy justification for debt, you still need to be careful in doing so. Coming out of college with the heavy weight of thousands of dollars of debt is not a good feeling and if you can avoid or minimize that, then do. Pay it back as soon as possible (don't waste time; save and figure out ways to pay back your loans). Don't fall into the mentality that loans are free money because they're not. You'll have to pay them back someday and you shouldn't forget that.
College is important and it's expensive. Loans are one of the only ways to finance secondary education and in many ways it's worth the cost. Just be aware of how much you're accruing and have a plan on how to pay it all back. Education is a worthy cause for debt but just make sure it's a debt you can control!
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