5 Ways to Avoid College Debt

Despite the fact that tuition costs show no signs of decreasing, you can become less reliant on loans and more focused on a secure financial future by following a few easy rules.
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by David Bakke, Money Crashers for GalTime.com

With the average student loan debt now more than $24,000, it's no wonder college-bound kids fear the skyrocketing cost of education will put a dent in their budget before entering the workforce. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the price for public university tuition and room and board rose an incredible 42 percent between 2001 and 2011, while private universities saw prices jump by 31 percent.

Despite the fact that tuition costs show no signs of decreasing, you can become less reliant on loans and more focused on a secure financial future by following a few easy rules:

1. Avoid the extras: Take a walk across nearly any campus in the U.S. and you'll find offerings for high-rate student credit cards and overpriced health insurance. Don't take the bait. Sign up for a traditional account at a local bank or credit union and you'll get better perks than you would with a student account. Also, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, you can stay on your parents' insurance plan until age 26. Think long and hard before signing up for any services that are heavily marketed to the student demographic.

2. Work part-time: A great way to reduce student loan debt is to work part-time during your school years. Not only will you generate income, but you'll spend less while your unemployed friends are out partying. If you can manage to work 15 hours per week at $12 per hour, after four years in school, you'll be able to apply over $20,000 towards college costs.

3. Participate in a paid summer internship: Summers off from college are certainly a time to kick back and relax, but consider a paid internship program instead. Not only can you build your resume in preparation for graduation, you can also make money. Websites like InternMatch.com or Indeed.com can help you find paid internship programs in your area.

4. Keep the partying moderate: Everyone loves a good party every now and then, but the fewer six-packs you purchase, the more money you'll have left for necessary college expenses. Be judicious when making social commitments -- one party per week is more than enough for the average student. Whether it's money or study time you end up saving, you'll be doing yourself a favor come graduation.

5. Use your student ID: From free event admission to discounts on food and shopping, the power of the student ID is great. Most colleges allow you to attend on-campus sporting events, speaking engagements, and plays for free by showing your ID. Many local businesses offer 5 to 10 percent off meals or shopping when a student ID is presented. If a local merchant doesn't readily offer a student discount, don't be afraid to ask -- four years of discounts can really add up!

Even though you may still be in school, it's important to consider what your finances will look like after graduation. If you're saddled with debt, you may miss out on job opportunities because your debt requires you to have a higher salary. You may also find it impossible to save for retirement if your student loan payment is eating too much into your monthly budget. Significant student loan and credit card debt has real-world consequences. Start off on the right foot by limiting debt as much as possible and yield the reward of peace of mind and security for the future.

What ways can you think of to avoid debt?

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