College loans are one of the fastest growing areas of debt with the average senior graduating with about $20,000 in school loan
Your objective: Graduate from college (or help your children to graduate) with as little school debt as possible and pay it off as quickly as possible. Here are ways to help you limit or even avoid college debt.
Paying for a college education presents a great opportunity for parents and teenagers to grow closer together as a family and with the Lord. As soon as your child is old enough, schedule a regular time to meet together and pray for the Lord to provide the necessary funds for their education. Ask God for creative solutions that will eliminate or reduce the need to borrow.
What Parents Can Do
It is a blessing when parents are able to help pay for their children’s education. Saving options that you might consider: State-sponsored 529 Plans, State-sponsored Prepaid Tuition Plan, Coverdell Educational Savings Account and Roth Individual Retirement Account. Each of these options has strengths and limitations. Regardless of which you choose, the earlier you can begin to save, the better. Time is your friend because your savings grow through compounding interest.
What Children Can Do
Work. When children are old enough, have them to begin working to save for their college—and the sooner, the better. They may work part or full time during summer vacation, and perhaps part time during the school year. When they enter college, encourage them to work part-time, and consider seeking a summer job. When students work to help pay for college, they appreciate the experience more and are more serious about their studies.
Help Reduce the Cost of College. Attending a community college near home for the first two years, typically, is less expensive than enrolling in a four-year college, especially if it is possible for the student to live at home.
Also, explore grants and scholarships because many colleges and states offer substantial savings. I recommend Tom Shaw’s excellent book for parents and their teens called College Bound (Moody, 2005). It offers several helpful strategies for stretching finding and stretching tuition dollars. Another fine resource is Gordon Wadswroth’s Cost Effective College (Moody, 2000), which includes tips for completing scholarship applications and essays, and locating public and private scholarships. And if your child is considering service in the military, all branches offer educational benefits.
Paying off school Debt
Where can someone with student loans go for help? For people who have more than one school loan, loan consolidation options may be your best place to turn. It can reduce your interest rate and lower your monthly payment.
The government has established an excellent website that will allow you to apply for government funded student loan consolidation directly over the Internet. Check out www.loanconsolidation.ed.gov for more information.
Even if you can’t consolidate your school loans, establish the goal of paying them off as soon as possible. Remember: The goal is to be free of all college debt!