Today’s college students must navigate a far different financial landscape than those who graduated just a few years ago. Tuition is higher, jobs are scarce and personal debt levels are rising. Yet despite these warning signs, many young adults don’t realize the impact of poor money management. Excessive spending and inadequate planning at 18, 19 or 20 can put many dreams on hold.
The federal government is also coming to the aid of students, passing regulations to protect young consumers from acquiring an exorbitant amount of debt. As of February 2010, consumers younger than 21 must have an older co-signer with a good credit history in order to obtain a credit card, or they must be able to show proof of income. Instant credit has become a thing of the past.
Efforts are also underway to make student loans more manageable. Interest rates for some student loans are dropping, and now federal loans must be issued directly from the Department of Education, not private lenders. Analysts say this move may help more families qualify for loans.
However, regulations alone aren’t enough to keep young consumers from graduating with unnecessary debt. Here are four tips to help students save regularly and make better financial decisions:
Load Up on Classes
At many institutions, full-time students will pay the same tuition amount for 12 credits as they would for 16 credits – it’s all considered full time. To lessen the financial burden, take as many classes as you can while still maintaining balance with your other priorities. Graduating a semester earlier than planned can save thousands of dollars in tuition, books, course fees, parking and rent, among other daily living expenses.
Choose Your School Carefully
Selecting a college or university is a very important decision. Weigh the pros and cons of an institution along with the life you plan to lead upon graduating. How would your life be impacted if you graduated with $10, $20 or $30 thousand in loans? Students with limited funds can save significant cash and prevent the need for extensive loans by attending a public school in their home state or taking select courses at a community college.
Tuition is only a part of the financial picture. The way you manage daily living expenses throughout college can have a great impact on your savings and debt upon graduating. While it’s important to have fun, you shouldn’t go broke in pursuit of it. Host pot lucks rather than dining out, get a Netflix subscription rather than going to the movies and swap clothes with friends rather than hitting the mall. Brainstorm these types of cost-effective swaps and plan social gatherings ahead of time.