While the world’s attention at the moment is on the global COVID-19 pandemic, it is healthy and wise to still think about future goals. Some of you are planning to head to college, technical school, or trade school in the near future. For many, school acceptances are due soon. Whether continuing your education means living away from home, commuting, or learning online from your home, it is important to consider the impact the cost of your education will have on your future. Here are four points to think about when making decisions about your educational future.
How do I make a wise purchasing decision?
There are many components to making an education choice, but it is important to consider it from a purchasing perspective. If you were planning to buy a car, what are some of the considerations you need to make? You will want to answer questions such as, “Why do I want it?” “What will I use it for?” “Is the price a good value for me?” and, “What else will I need to pay for once I’ve made my decision?” These and others are some of the same questions you should be asking, and answering, before making a costly education decision. Think about why you plan on going to college and weighing the pros and cons. Set a game plan for yourself by listing all your goals as well as how you plan on achieving those goals, which can ultimately put things into perspective.
What are my educational choices and costs?
There are many educational program choices one can make regarding their future. For example if you like to work with your hands, you might be interested in going to a trade school to become a chef, licensed electrician, or contractor. If that’s not the path for you, going to a college may be a better option. If you want to pursue a college degree you may have to consider financial options. For example, an in-state public university is usually a less expensive option than a private university. Choosing to start at a community college and transferring to a four-year program is another cost-effective option to consider. The University of Maryland offers a 2+2 option, granting transfers to four-year UMD system universities for students after completion of a community college degree.
While much depends on student loan structure, (see below) for every $10,000 you borrow to attend school, you will pay roughly $100 each month in loan payments after you leave. It is wise to research the expected income potential of your career choice to make sure you are not overpaying. Student loan debt can affect other life goals, such as marriage or buying your own home.
How do student loans work?
Federal direct subsidized loans are the most common type of student loan. The government is the lender, and also pays the interest while the student is in school. Payments usually start within six months after graduation or when the student leaves school. Borrowers have many loan repayment choices. Loan criteria, choices, and payback options are highly individualized, so it is crucial to carefully review accurate student loan resources and understand interest and repayment terms.
What are good sources of funds?
Financial aid officers at your school of choice will inform you of student loan choices. However, don’t overlook the thousands of smaller dollar scholarships and grants offered by community organizations and businesses. It is worthwhile to research those opportunities and take time to apply. School guidance counselors are excellent resources for scholarship information and can also advise you on federal and state financial aid programs. Money earned from evening, weekend, and summer jobs can also go a long way to reducing loan burdens.
Selecting an educational path can be exciting, but it is smart to consider how choices affect your financial future.