It Pays to Develop an Interest in Interest

By Beth Dumbauld

You are thinking about going to college -- and that’s a good thing. However, you, like many, may be fearful about the financial investment required to pay for college -- and that’s a bad thing. Fear is the equivalent of intellectual super glue. It’s sticky and keeps you exactly where you are. It can prevent an excellent student from entering college and pursuing their educational dreams and career goals.

Don’t give in to fear. There are many ways to finance a college degree. Yes, loans can play a critical part in that mix, but only a part. Understanding how all the pieces of the financial puzzle fit, including interest rates, is essential so you can put yourself in the position of manageable student loan debt upon graduation. Truth is, about 75 percent of full-time undergraduate students receive some kind of financial aid to pay for college. Approximately 45 percent of this financial aid comes in the form of loans; the rest are grants, scholarships, and tax credits and deductions.1

You can learn how to finance your education in such a manner that college will fit your current and future lifestyle. Don’t let a lack of knowledge about how the financial aid system works be a deterrent to your educational and financial success. Yes, some people take on more debt than they can manage after graduation, but you don’t have to live someone else’s story -- you only have to live your own. Who says college has to look, feel, and cost one particular way? There is a huge variability in college costs depending on the type of institution you choose. Becoming an informed educational consumer can save you a lot of money, and even make college possible when you thought it was impossible.

Do Your Personal Research

Pay attention to the personal aspect of financing an education before you enroll in college. This upfront investment of time will go a long way towards propelling you in the right-for-you direction, towards a post-secondary system that fits you and your situation. At the same time, you’ll gain the financial know-how to leave your budget intact with enough room to accommodate a school loan payment. Upon graduating from college, you won’t be caught off-guard; instead, you will know your financial obligations and be able to plan accordingly.

Is a College Degree Right for You?

It’s true, college may not be right for everyone, but it may be a perfect fit for you. A college degree opens doors. For some entering popular careers, such as nursing or teaching, a degree is a prerequisite. For others hoping to land a promotion in their current position, or to just hang on to their job when layoffs are possible, a degree may be the best hedge against career instability. No matter what motivates you to get your college degree, the fact remains: college graduates, over the course of their work life, on average, earn nearly $650,000 more than high school graduates.2

What’s your story? Have you already taken college classes and are looking to go back and finally complete that degree? Do you know if you are eligible for transfer credits ? Do you have a current job and a family you must schedule your classes around? If so, you aren’t alone. Almost 75% of undergraduates are in some way nontraditional students.3 Many of those have taken some college courses and are looking to go back to school and pick up where they left off.

1 College Board, Pay For College: How many college students get financial aid?, 2011

2 Pew Research Center, Is College Worth It?: College Presidents, Public Assess, Value, Quality and Mission of Higher Education, May 2011, p.1

3 National Center for Education Statistics, The Condition of Education, Closer Look 2002a, Nontraditional Undergraduates, 2002 (latest year statistics are provided)

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