Financing a college education is often a partnership involving the student, family, school and lending agency. LSU AgCenter family economics professor Dr. Jeanette Tucker encourages college students to find out each partner’s responsibility.
Once you know those obligations, you can adjust your flexible costs accordingly to live within your means. Flexible costs depend on where you choose to live, how/where/what you choose to eat, your mode of transportation, your choices of entertainment/recreation/socializing and the books/projects/fees for the courses you choose.
Tucker says to consider these strategies to control your spending plan:
- Always maintain the highest grades possible to be eligible for scholarships and merit awards as they become available.
- Learn to save as much money as you can while in school to help pay your expenses along the way to reduce debt and interest payments later on.
- Be careful how you use your credit cards. Research warns us, "More students drop out of school from problems with debt and credit than poor grades." If you owe $1,000 on your card at 21 percent interest, you will accrue interest charges of $211.15. You would have to work 41 hours at minimum wage pay ($5.15 per hour) just to pay the interest.
- If you do get into financial trouble, don’t let it destroy you or distract from your studies. Work it out. Get advice from a trusted and knowledgeable advisor, financial counselor or credit counselor.
- Maintain a good credit history. Request a copy of your credit report from one of the three national credit-reporting agencies.
- Maintain a regular schedule of sleep, work, classes, study, social and recreational activities.
Tucker offers a number of cost-reducing strategies:
- Compare the cost to attend college minus grants or scholarship assistance to see what your real out-of-pocket expenses would be. Don’t assume that you can’t attend a higher cost college until you review the financial aid you will receive.
- Attend a local community college during your freshman and sophomore years. Then transfer to a four-year institution to complete your undergraduate education.
- Compare the costs of having an apartment versus staying in a residence hall. Consider the responsibilities of apartment living and evaluate your reasons for attending the university.
- Live at home and commute to classes, but actively participate in campus organizations and events.
- If planning to attend school out of state, consider living in that state for one year to declare residency to avoid the higher out-of-state tuition. Check out-of-state and college residency requirements.
- Compare interest rates and total costs of loans over time with different interest rates.
- Borrow just the minimum.
- Live in an apartment building where you can manage in exchange for rent.
- If you have difficulty repaying your student loan, first try to increase income and reduce expenses, then check your lender’s "forbearance policy." Some lenders lower your payments for a period of time. Always talk to your lender if you experience problems in loan repayment.
"Your greatest investment in life is your education," Tucker says, emphasizing, "Plan to reduce other life expenses to afford the enrichment and empowerment that a degree can provide."
The family economist recommends contacting an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office to learn more about budgeting for college. In addition, refer to the Family and Consumer Sciences section under the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service at the LSU AgCenter Web site: http://www.lsuagcenter.com/.
On the Internet: LSU AgCenter Web site: http://www.lsuagcenter.com/
Source: Jeanette Tucker (225) 578-1425, or Jtucker@agcenter.lsu.edu.