Given the high cost of college, getting a loan can be the deciding factor in whether a student can attend school and where he or she will go. In fact, a majority of college students graduate with at least some student loan debt, and the average debt in 2017 was nearly $30,000. Here are four steps can you take to lower the amount you’ll have to pay back.
Minimize Your Loan Amount
Options for reducing tuition costs include:
- Financial aid.
- Tuition discounts and payment plans.
- Earning college credits in high school.
- Starting in community college, then transferring to a four-year school.
- Graduating early.
- Going for cooperative education.
- Living at home.
- Doing some courses online.
- Getting employer educational assistance.
- Seeking scholarships.
Get the Information You Need
A student loan is a serious commitment, and you will likely be paying it off for several years after you graduate. Don’t hesitate to ask the financial aid office as many questions as necessary to understand exactly what you’re committing yourself to. You’ll be in a better position to determine ways to lower the loan amount or find better loan terms, if appropriate. Your questions should cover:
- What is the entire loan amount?
- When will you have to begin payments? How long will payments last?
- What is the interest rate?
- Are there loan fees?
- What will monthly payments be?
It’s also important that you know the deadlines and other application requirements so that you can get the loan you need.
If you have choices of lenders, compare their offers—including interest rates and other loan terms—to get the best one for you. Ask any lender about the possibility of getting a lower interest rate, lower fees or other more favorable loan terms. The answer may be no, but it’s worth asking.
Consider Starting Payments Early
Even if you don’t have to begin paying off your loan until you graduate, think about making interest payments while you’re still in school if the loan allows. If you can afford it, it can help you lower your total loan amount.