The job market has forced a lot of people to take a long, hard look at their education background. Remember when a high school diploma was optional? If not, your parents or grandparents probably remember. Now, without at least a bachelor’s degree, you’ll find your application quickly meeting the waste basket. Millions of Americans are taking the new found time on their hands from unemployment to venture into higher learning. Even NBA players like Russell Westbrook and Baron Davis, who are currently locked out, are finishing what they started, taking college classes. The basketball players may have the money to continue their education, but not everyone does. If you can’t pay for your tuition out of pocket, should you intentionally go into student loan debt? You should ask yourself a few questions before making that plunge:
- Have you exhausted all possibilities? Student loan debt should truly be your last resort for financial aid. Look into scholarships, grants, and even work study. Fill out your FAFSA, as you may be surprised how much assistance you’ll be able to get without going in to debt. Also, try to save up to pay for your tuition out of pocket. Tuition payments will hurt a lot less without the interest rates attached.
- Is this the most affordable option? In many cases, you can find the educational program you’re looking for at a much cheaper rate. Check to see if your local state college offers courses or if there’s a certificate program you can participate in for a fixed cost. You may only need relevant experience rather than a specific educational background.
- Can you afford the payments? Remember that loans are money that you’re required to pay back. You’ll be on a payment program, but will you be able to pay that money back? Do you have the income to make the minimum payments? Will your job allow you to make additional payments to clear your debt faster? The faster you pay off your loan, the less interest you’ll have to pay.
- Will your future job pay for your education? You won’t want to pay more for a degree that isn’t going to pay off in the long run. If you’re going to a school that’s going to cost $200,000 to attend, but the job you plan on getting only makes $30,000 a year, it’s going to take you almost 7 years to pay it off, and that’s if you have a 0% interest on your loan (highly unlikely) and if you put every single dollar you make towards the debt.
- Can you finish school faster? School may bring on a lot of pressure, but for some people it’s a breeze. If you can shave down the amount of time you’re in school, you can reduce the costs to attend. Tuition is calculated per credit up to a certain amount of classes. If you take a on a full load at school, you may be able to reduce the time you’re in school by a term or even a year. That’s 1 less term or year you have to pay for school, which means less student loans.