The year before I went to college, my father had a heart attack and ended up taking an early retirement. I couldn’t bring myself to have him stroke a check for my tuition. I decided to stay home and attend a state university which was just as good as my first choice school. I really just wanted to get away from home and party like a rock star.
Being home meant I could help my parents, but I had to work. Of course living at home reduced my living expenses. I didn’t pay for food, housing, Internet, cable. I paid 75% of my school costs out of my own pocket. Looking back I know I worked more than my friends, but I had much less student debt. I worked as a tutor, baby sitter, nanny, and a few other things I can’t remember. During the whole four years, I only had to take out one stupid loan, but I regret even borrowing that relatively small amount. Looks like I had the right idea —
More people are being forced into untenable financial circumstances as outstanding student loan debt has surpassed $1 trillion. And people simply aren’t able to pay all the money they owe. In the past few years, the rate of defaults for federal loans has increased at an alarming rate. According to the Department of Education, those recent graduates who began repayments in 2009, 8.8 percent had already defaulted on their federal loans. That compares to 7 percent in 2008. Currently, 36 million Americans have outstanding federal loans. I can’t help but wonder how many of those millions are feeling distressed or suicidal, or how many have attempted suicide because of all that debt hanging over their heads. The Ones We’ve Lost: The Student Loan Debt Suicides
I think it’s criminal to saddle young people with debt. How can you start life with less than zero? In the last few years I’ve changed my opinions about so many things after watching multi-billion dollar corporations get blank checks as well as ‘get out of jail free’ cards handed to them while the average person tried not to become homeless. The one thing I know is that you should never take out a college loan.
College is not that important. It’s more important to be debt-free. Ask the many people with degrees and no jobs.
One of the things that education is supposed to do is train you for a career. If there are no jobs in your field, shouldn’t you get your money back? Since that’s not likely to happen, you need to spend as little money as possible on higher education because there’s a possibility you’ll never get your money’s worth.
With that said, here’s five ways to go to college for free or very little money.
1. Many schools have programs where you can attend a local community college for free as long as you’re in high school. Take full advantage of this and you can graduate high school with two diplomas. Make sure the credits will transfer to the college of your choice, and you’ll only have to worry about paying for two years of school.
Seriously, English 101 is English 101 whether you take it at Harvard or the local community college. You can pay $500 for it or $5,000 for it. My advice is to take it while you’re in high school and that way it’s free.
2. Get a job, but not just any job. Try to work for the school you want to go to. Many schools will let you take free classes each semester as part of your employee benefits. If you can live at home, that will save money as well and with your salary you can buy your own books. You don’t need to be a professor – a job as a clerk/typist or stacking the dishwasher in the cafeteria will do. The goal is to go to school for free.
3. Parents should look into working in higher education as well. Some schools will let the children of employees attend for free or minimal cost. If this is a possibility, start sending in applications as soon as possible. Freshman year of high school isn’t too early to start.
4. CLEP as many courses as possible. This is probably the simplest way to save money on the cost of college tuition. These tests are pass or fail and you don’t have to score 100% to pass. A passing score could be 60% and you just saved yourself an entire semester of time and money. I think I studied a bit the night before and kicked myself for thinking it would difficult. Regretfully, I only did this once or twice, and I wish I had done more. Might have saved myself several thousand dollars.
5. Think about the military. Admittedly, this is not for everyone, but if you’re going into a career field that requires many years of schooling such as a doctor, your education will be paid for plus you’ll get a monthly stipend in return for committing to a certain number of years in your Uncle’s service.
Parents owe their kids a good start in life, but that shouldn’t mean a trip to the poor house. Anyway, that’s my take on how things should work in the ‘new economy’.