How to Graduate with Less in Student Loans?


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Shiza J. Manzoor |

The College Board of Education states that the cost to attend college ranged from $20,090 to $45,370 in 2016. Those numbers go up every year and every year we fall more and more into debt.

Radford University, according to the same source, is known to boast about it being the second most affordable college in Southeast Virginia with the average total for in-state students being about $18,127 to $23,858 depending on where you choose to live: at home, on campus, or off campus. For out-of-state students, that cost increases by $11,635, falling between $29,762 to $35,493, respectively.

With all these expenses, you may wonder like I did what the best way is to go about saving that money.

The first secret to graduating with less in student loans is to consider getting an Associate’s degree from a two-year community college.

The second secret is to not take out a loan. I know, “You give some solid advice, Shiza [insert eye roll emoji],” but, the truth is, most students assume they need student loans to get through college when there are ways around them.

I’m not that person. I needed monetary help and the initial step I would recommend taking is visiting the financial aid office.

That’s why these are some important few months. As of last year, the date to file a free application for financial aid was set permanently for October 1st rather than January 1st, enabling students to complete and submit a FAFSA early. Sure, the process is confusing, even frustrating, but it’s meant to be that way for filtering out those who are really in need.

Say you’ve exhausted all your options and you’re standing in front of two options: direct subsidized and direct unsubsidized loans (also known as Stafford Loans or Direct Stafford Loans).

My experience with loans has been limited to subsidized loans, so I’m prejudiced in what I must share, but I figured it might be worth a read. The main difference between the two loans is that one begins to accumulate interest the second the money is borrowed and the other begins post-graduation, after a six-month grace period.

A subject I can advise on based on personal knowledge that I’ve gained is that you could be saving a lot of money by choosing the subsidized route and deciding to graduate on time. Think about it. And, while you’re at it, also think about making a small monthly payment to return the money that you’ve loaned. With the help of my parents, I pay $550 off each month. The reason?

The amount of loan payment I have left when I graduate should be less than the amount it was initially at meaning the interest that’s supposed to build on that after my grace period will be lesser than at which it started at.

Some important terms to look out for thanks to the website Student Loan Hero:

  • Issue Date: The date your loan starts to accrue interest
  • Amount borrowed: The total amount borrowed in each loan
  • Interest Rate: How much you have to pay to borrow the funds
  • How interest accrues: Whether interest is charged daily or monthly
  • First payment date: When you have to make your first loan payment
  • Payment Schedule: How many payments you have to make

I understand not everyone can take care of $550 each month, I totally do, but that’s not the point nor is to say that you can’t pay back your student loans in months rather than years.