Fighting College Expenses

Going to college certainly isn’t cheap.  After you’ve added up the cost of tuition, textbooks, room and board, campus fees, and other personal expenses (i.e. gas and food), you mind as well tie a cement block around your ankles and throw yourself in a river. For instance, if you’re going to Florida State right out of high school  as a non-Florida resident (Go back to your swamp, Gator fans. I don’t need your input here.)and your parents make a moderate combined income (about $50,000/year) and you yourself are making about $10,000-$20,000 annually, your total cost of attendance per year after grants would be about $33,000 (about $18,000 for state residents). With that said, you’re going to want to do whatever you can to save up as much of your money as possible.

1.       Obtain Grants and Scholarships

The sooner you can get yourself filed on your taxes as an independent, the better (actually, the youngest you can do this at in most cases is 24, sadly…). It’s really the only way if you want the chance of qualifying for anything. The biggest one is the Pell Grant, which is available to low income undergraduate students. The maximum allowance is $5,550 annually. If you live in the state of Florida, the Bright Futures scholarship will be available to you, but since funding for this scholarship has been decreasing over the years, and possibly the same for others like it, the tuition reimbursement that you gain amounts to very little compared to overall expenses.

2.       Get a Job

Many college students try to avoid this one and just pull loans instead, expecting to be able to pay them off as soon as they get out of college (they’re sorely mistaken). If you’re not able to get the money you need through grants and scholarships, this will be your main source of educational funding. Yes, it does take up the time needed to study, but you’re going to have to figure out a way to juggle both. Besides, you’ll be more prepared than the student who doesn’t work, making yourself more marketable after you obtain your degree.

3.       Budget Yourself

Tips for saving money on gas? Drive less, walk more. In fact it’s faster, as you’re not having to fight the other students that are trying to drive from place to place. And it’s good for your health. What about food? Your essentials are ramen noodles, Chef Boyardee, and frozen pizzas. Not the healthiest combination, but it’s quick and cheap. You may want to keep a notebook on you to keep track of what you’re spending on a weekly basis and find out how much you have left over to spend on other things.

4.       Loans…

I put loans last only because you don’t want to pull loans. You want to avoid them as much as possible; but unfortunately, you may have to pull them when it comes down to it. Government loans would be your first option, as their interest rates are cheapest. The best one out there is the Stafford loan, which offers a lifetime loan of $31,000 (yea, that’s all you’re getting) at a minimum fixed interest rate of 3.4%. Your next option would be bank loans, and banks like Sun Trust and Wells Fargo offer fairly low interest rates to students. With that said, your cost of education will likely be no less than $100,000, and if you borrow $100,000, you’ll owe around $115,000-$145,000 after four years depending on what your interest rates are. That of course isn’t including the loan fees, which you have to pay up front.

Now the question comes, is it worth it? If you want to be a doctor and you have your heart and mind set on it, then the answer is obvious. If you’re not sure what you want to do, then you may need to wait until you can find a trade that you know you can excel at.

In any other situation, I’d tell you to always listen to your parents. But when they start suggesting to you to pull loans just so you can be the doctor that they always wanted you to be, that’s where you tell them no and then show them the facts. Try to work out another way with them to pay off your education that doesn’t involve sinking yourself in debt for the years to come. I honestly don’t believe that education is worth going bankrupt over. And If you’re really not sure what you want to major in, then just go to a community college, get you’re A.A., and leave it at that until you’re absolutely sure what you want to do for a career.