Borrowing less for college is one of the best decisions you can make. If you borrow less, you'll have less stress and a chance at becoming financially independent sooner. According to the Education Data Initiative, the average loan owed by someone with a bachelor's degree is $37,574. However, many students owe significantly more than average, which can easily spell financial disaster.
It's easy to overborrow for college. I still remember the exhilaration of receiving a financial aid award, even if it included loans. Now, I knew I had to repay the loans, but access to money I didn't have before felt good. Remember, it's common for the college to offer you more student loans than you might need.
However, don't be in a hurry to accept every student loan you receive in your financial aid package. You should only take the amount you really need (not want) to pay your tuition and associated living expenses. Don't try to maintain an unrealistic lifestyle. Stick to the basics and your budget, and you'll be better off for it.
How much Student Loan is too much?
According to experts, your student loans should be, at most, the amount you expect to earn in your first year after graduation. It's easy to find your potential earnings. You can find your average earnings for the career you intend to pursue by visiting the Department of Labor's website.
Based on how much you borrow and the type of loan plan, you could end up paying off your loans in as little as ten years or as many as 30 years. You might have a lower monthly repayment if you borrow less for college.
How to reduce your Student Loans
As you search for colleges, look for those that are considered "best value" – ones that offer the best education for the least amount of money.
Consider other ways to reduce your college costs. For example, you could do one or more of these things to lower your costs:
- Attend a two-year college for the first two years, then transfer to a 4-year college.
- Take dual credits or college credits while in high school.
- CLEP out of high school classes through exams.
- Consider attending a college close to home, so you don't have to for pay room and board.
- Join a college access program like Posse. They offer full-tuition scholarships to those who qualify.
- Apply for as many private scholarships as you can.
To benefit from these options, you will have to start planning before you're a senior high school.
5 Reasons You Should Borrow Less for College
When it comes to borrowing, it pays to borrow the least amount of money you need to graduate. Here are some reasons why:
1. Lower overall debt burden
When you borrow less, you can graduate with a lower debt burden. With less debt, you could have a lower debt-to-income ratio. This ratio is significant for creditors and landlords when deciding whether to lend you money or rent you an apartment.
With a lower debt burden, you will not need a co-signer to buy a car or rent an apartment. If you have parents to help you this way, that's great. But, sometimes, your parents might not qualify to be your co-signer.
2. Less stress
Let's face it, having debt is stressful.
Student debt is no different. As your student debt piles up year after year, you can become distracted worrying about how you will repay it. While you do not have to worry about the interest piling up with subsidized federal student loans, unsubsidized loans are a different story. Suppose you have unsubsidized student loans and do not begin paying the interest upon receipt of the student loans. In that case, your interest will compound and cost you significantly more upon graduation. Talk about stress!
3. Wider range of career options
Choosing to borrow less will allow you to pursue your dream career after graduation. Rather than taking the first job that comes along to pay off loans, you can hold out for your dream job.
Less student debt means more financial flexibility.
4. More savings
You may have more money left to save at the end of each month if you have fewer student loans to repay.
The first few years after college can be the most challenging financially, even without student loans. There are already so many bills you'll have to pay – your cell phone, internet, groceries, car insurance, and entertainment, to name a few. Adding high student loan repayment to an already long list of expenses could keep you from starting a savings fund for a rainy day or a down payment on a house.
5. More disposable income
Too much debt can keep you from enjoying your life after spending four to six years earning your degree. With less college debt, you can live and enjoy some leisure and fun activities without worrying too much about money. You can dine out occasionally with friends and even travel.
You will likely need to take out loans to pay for college. However, it does not mean you have to go overboard. If you want greater financial and career flexibility, reduce your stress levels, and have a life after college, consider taking on fewer student loans. In my experience, few people ever regret taking on too little debt.