Student debt has become a reality for one in three U.S. citizens between the ages of 18 and 29, amounting to a nationwide debt of $1.5 trillion1. And it can take a toll– not only on your wallet— but on your mindset. It’s easy to feel like throwing in the towel and giving up, especially when the rest of the world is in an uncertain state (thanks, coronavirus). But you do have the power to take action and change your situation. If you don’t have student debt yet, there are ways to get an education without it. And for those who already have student loans, there are ways to pay them off faster.
Finances are more than just numbers, they impact how you live, how you feel and what you can do. Learn to get control over student debt and your financial habits even during uncertain times to create a happier and more satisfying future.
AVOID STUDENT DEBT IN THE FIRST PLACE
Before getting into how to get out of student debt, the best thing you can do is avoid it in the first place.
You may wonder how that is possible if you want to go to college. One way is through employer tuition programs. Some employers will help you pay for your college expenses while you work. For example, UPS offers the FutureYou Earn and Learn program which gives part-time employees up to $5,250 in assistance per year, and up to a $25,000 maximum.
You can also avoid debt by applying for grants, programs and scholarships that you don’t have to pay back. When you fill out the FAFSA, you can find out if you qualify for work-study opportunities, grants and loans. The former two could help you avoid debt. You can also research available scholarships for adult learners2.
SORRY STUDENT DEBT, YOU’VE GOT TO GO
If you have a large amount of student debt haunting you, the best thing you can do is start chipping away at the balance. Here are some ways to do so aside from making normal payments from your paycheck.
Check out loan forgiveness programs
Did you know 47 states currently offer loan forgiveness programs?3 They vary by state but are worth looking into. For example, in Alabama, math and science teachers can receive up to $7,5004 of forgiveness per year, for up to four years, to repay federal student loans. Additionally, you may qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness5 if you work for the government or a non-profit organization.
Use surplus cash to make payments
If you receive a raise or a tax refund, resist the temptation to splurge on a shopping spree, car upgrade or vacation. Use those opportunities to pay down your debt faster. The fun stuff comes later, and it will be guilt-free!
Consolidate your loan
Loan consolidation can be helpful in not only simplifying multiple payments into one but saving you money. Consolidating federal loans doesn’t reduce your interest rate but consolidating private loans can. If you have private loans, it’s worth checking periodically to see if you can get a lower interest rate by refinancing.
Pick up a side gig
The gig economy is real, and more side jobs are cropping up every day. Whether you become an Uber driver, deliver meals via GrubHub, work online as a virtual assistant or something else, you can earn extra money on the side to help reduce your loan balance quicker.
Join the Army or Navy
While this may be a huge life decision, if you join the Army6 or Navy7, you can also qualify for various programs to help with your student loans. For example, the College Loan Repayment Program (LRP) will repay 33 1/3% of the outstanding principal on qualifying student loans for eligible applicants entering the Army. Further, the Navy Student Loan Repayment Program repays up to $65,000 in federally guaranteed loans in three payments over the first three years of a sailor’s service.
FINANCIAL WELLNESS CAN LEAD YOU TO A GREATER SENSE OF WELL-BEING
Student debt may be overwhelming. It’s also not meant to be paid off overnight. That’s why the loans have terms of anywhere from five to 25 years. But you can speed up the process by taking a proactive approach. Avoid student debt when possible, use multiple strategies to pay off student loans early and focus on building good financial habits along the way to gain more confidence in your life.
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2021-116153 Exp. 2/2023
- Ciluffo, A.; 5 Facts about Student Loan Debt; August 2019; Pew Research Center;
- Walsh, J.; 15 Scholarships Designed for Adult Learners; Petersons; April 2020
- Farrington, J.; Student Loan Forgiveness Programs by State; The College Investor
- Alabama Commission on Higher Education
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness, Studentaid.gov
- Federal Benefits, Benefit Library, My Army Benefits
- Navy Student Loan Repayment Program, CNRC