Money Monday: Take Charge of Your College Tuition

The average student debt in 2011 was $22,900; avoid leaving school with thousands in the hole.

Posted: 08/12/2011 04:30 PM EDT
Filed Under Money Monday

Worried about paying down your college tuition? With the right planning and research, you can beat the odds of student debt in the future.

 

In 2010 student loan debt outplaced credit card debt for the first time and it is likely to surpass one trillion dollars as more students head to college.

 

This year, on average, 2011 graduates left college with about $22,900 in student loans nationwide and the class was named the most indebted ever, according to the National Center for Education. Furthermore, current research shows that high debt levels are more prevalent among Black bachelor degree recipients than among other racial/ethnic groups. Between 2007 and 2008, 27 percent of Black bachelor's degree recipients borrowed $30,500 or more, in comparison to 16 percent of whites and 14 percent of Latinos. Additionally, in May, BET.com reported that some Historically Black College and University students were walking away with over $90,000 in debt.


In order to make sure that you’re doing the most to save yourself from paying hefty amounts in the long run, Bankrate.com suggests to follow these tips:

 

1. Apply For Scholarships and Loans Early

 

Starting on January 1 students can apply for federal financial aid. The 20112012 deadline has passed, but any corrections or updates can be submitted until September 15, 2012. For the upcoming school year, make sure to pay attention to specific deadlines on private scholarships.

 

"Funds are limited and you don't have to wait to get your acceptance (to a school) before starting the (scholarship) application process. Apply as early as you can," David Feitz, executive director for the Utah Higher Education Assistant Authority in Salt Lake City tells Bankrate.com.

 

2. Hold Assets in Your Parents’ Name

 

Your college savings could detract from your family’s financial aid package. According to savingforcollege.com, the first dollar of assets held in your name will impact your family’s expected contribution. They report that any cash (every 20 cents per dollar) stored in a checking or savings account, real estate, investment or business venture in the child’s name will be subtracted in the student’s financial aid package. The assessment rate for parental assets is much less stringent, they report, at a rate between 2.6 percent to 5.6 percent.

 

3. Reconsider Public Service Professions

For years careers in public service fields have been very unattractive due to students’ fear of making little to no money and being unable to pay off debt. In 2010, however, legislation passed providing more of a financial incentive.

 

According to the U.S. Department of Education, if you work for the federal government or nonprofit entities, after 10 years of consecutive payments on federal student loans while being employed with them, you will be eligible to have your remaining federal student-loan debt forgiven.

 

4. Maximize Your Income

 

According to FinAid.org, parents with an adjusted gross income of $50,000 or less where all family members are eligible to fill out an IRS 1040A or 1040EZ form can apply for a simplified needs test. This test makes applicants eligible for more aid by removing assets from the federal needs formula.

 

If your parents gross under $30,000 per year, you automatically have an expected family contribution of zero.

 

5. Search for the “Right” Scholarships

 

Why waste your time applying for scholarships in which you know you are not eligible? Search for the best scholarship; “best” means ones that you know you will be most likely to win. “The Ultimate Scholarship Book 2011” says that some of the best ways to maximize your changes for winning a scholarship include searching for awards offered through local organizations, clubs and professional groups.

 

 

Save money for yourself in the long-run by being conscious of financial decisions now.

 

 

To share story ideas with Danielle Wright, follow and tweet her at @DaniWrightTV.

(Photo: Beverly Taylor/Birmingham News/Landov)

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