Being we have four kids, the subject of college and how to avoid student loan debt is near and dear to my bank account, er, I mean heart. As entrepreneurs and big believers in self sufficiency, two of the main things we’re working to teach our kids about money is how to earn it without depending on a job and how to avoid debt. Being that at least two of our kids right now are set on going to college, we’re also talking early about how to get a college degree without going into debt. Being that the average 2015 college graduate graduated with over $30,000 in student loan debt, this is no small task. Here are some of the options we’re considering for accomplishing that feat.
The Case for How to Avoid Student Loan Debt – “But, it’s Normal!”
We bucked “normal” in our child-rearing techniques a long time ago. We began bucking normal by choosing to home school our kids; the first in our family history to do so. As you can imagine, our decision to home school was met with respectful reservation. “Normal” is to send kids to a traditional public school.
One of the reasons we chose to home school our kids is that normal doesn’t seem to be working for a lot of kids these days. Let’s look at some normal statistics for today’s adults.
- 76% of American families are living paycheck-to-paycheck
- 51% of college grads aren’t working in their field of degree
- 52% of Americans are unhappy in their jobs
- 80% of Americans carry some type of debt
Normal didn’t work for us. In fact it almost ruined us. Heavy debt loads and a 65% DTI was putting serious strain on our marriage and our money. We don’t want normal for our kids, so we’re working to teach them differently.
Since home schooling allows us to tailor their curriculum toward their talents and interests, we’re using home schooling to help our kids to discover what they want to do – not just what makes the most money or what is a “smart” career choice based on statistics.
For instance, my oldest daughter wants to be an artist/animator. This kid has been drawing for several hours a day since she was 3. Art is in her blood, and she’s good at it, if I do say so myself (and I do.) Check out one of my 11th grader’s latest works.
Pretty awesome, don’t you think? Home schooling has allowed Madelyn the time she needs to perfect her gift of art and focus on the training she needs to one day have a career in the comic art and animation industry. She takes free online classes regularly and has a few mentors who are already working in the industry who have taken her under their wings. Her home schooling schedule allows her to complete standard class work in about three hours a day, and the rest of the day she spends learning and practicing art.We’re working on similar curricula for our other three children as well.
We’re bucking the system in the area of how we teach our kids, and we’re bucking them in the area of having to take out student loans for college as well.
The last thing we want is for them (or us) to graduate with tens of thousands of dollars in debt. Here are some of the techniques we’re going to put into place to help them be able to pay cash for as much of their schooling as possible.
Exploring All Education Options
It’s not mandatory to get your entire four year degree at an expensive private college. It’s also not always cheapest to go to a state college as opposed to a private college. Grants and scholarships must be taken into consideration, as must all college expenses, before you can get the full college picture to make your decision with.
One of the education options we’re considering for our college-bound kids is to enroll them in our state’s PSEO program. This program allows kids to take college classes during their junior and senior high school years that are paid for by state funding. Kids who can handle the schedule have the capability to graduate with a free 2-year AA degree, but even if they can’t handle a full course load, every class completed under the PSEO program means less out-of-pocket costs for them.
It’s very important when searching for college options to know every cost and option for grants and scholarships available at each school before making decisions. It’s also important to know a school’s transfer rules so that you can explore the possibility of PSEO type classes or getting your AA at a community college and then transferring to a bigger school for the last two years. When it comes to college costs, every bit saved adds up.
Online schools can be another way to get a degree at a much lower price. The point? Do ALL of your research before accepting a spot at a college.
Researching Scholarships and Grants
There are thousands upon thousands of scholarships and grants available to help kids with college costs. Talk to your school’s financial aid office representative or check out the websites below for information on available scholarships and grants.
Finding Ways to Cut Other College Costs
College carries more costs besides tuition. There are books to buy, room and board to pay for, meals, etc. For instance, in our state, the major state school costs as follows:
- Tuition: $14,142 for in-state
- Room and board: $9,377 (your room and 14 meals per week)
- Books and supplies: $1,000
- Other expenses: $2,200
(Source: http://www.collegedata.com/cs/data/college/college_pg03_tmpl.jhtml?schoolId=991 )
Buying used books as opposed to new, living at home and attending a local college and scrutinizing “other” expenses will all help cut down on the amount of money one ends up paying for college.
Finding Ways to Make Money Before and During College
We’re also encouraging our kids to start saving for college early. We’re helping them to consider job options as well as business ownership options. Some ways they’ll be making money to save for college before and during their stay?
- Traditional jobs. There are a number of jobs available in this area starting at age 14; jobs in stores and restaurants and jobs at different farms and small businesses. Our oldest started working and saving a age 14 and we expect our other three will want to do the same. High school and college kids can consider delivering pizzas, working as a restaurant server or working at a retail or office establishment that has flexible hours to work around school schedules.
- Side hustles. We’re also encouraging our kids to do side hustles that coordinate with their talents and interests. For instance, oldest daughter does drawings for commission and has a Redbubble account where she features designs for tshirts, coffee mugs and laptop covers. Other options for kids considering making money before and during college include tutoring, dorm/house cleaning, kid/pet setting, etc.
We’re also encouraging our kids to have a high savings rate, and so far it’s working. Our oldest daughter saved 70% of the money she made last year.
We’re Not Presenting College as a Non-Negotiable
Not all kids want to or have to go to college. There’s no sense in sending your kid to college for a degree in engineering if he has his heart set on being a plumber. Likewise, not all careers require a college degree. Our art student is doing most of her education through free online classes and mentorship, as mentioned above.
We’ll Prepare Ourselves to Help
We haven’t quite decided how much we’re going to contribute to our kids’ college degree costs yet, but we are currently taking steps to help prepare us as parents for any help we give. Here they are.
We’re Letting Our Kids Know that College Costs are Their Responsibility
There’s no free rides in the Frugal Farmer house. We have found that our kids value more that which they pay for. Therefore we’ve let them know that while we will indeed help with college, we haven’t shared to what extent and have told them to expect to pay for college on their own. That way they’ll take earning and saving seriously and any help we give them will be a bonus.
We’re Paying Off All Debt
The more debt free we are, the more money we’ll have available to help the kids with college costs. By bettering our own financial situation, we’re lessening any potential financial burden our kids will inherit by taking away any chance that they will have to support us in our later years. And we’re also freeing ourselves up to have money to help them pay for college.
We’re Offering Them Free Room and Board at Home
We’re offering our kids the option of staying home for free and providing meals/transportation if they choose a local school. This is a way we can contribute for them at a lower out-of-pocket cost.
We’re Considering Buying Rental Properties
Another option we’re considering for our kids during college is buying near-campus housing that they can live in for free and have roommates that will pay the rent to us as their parents. This move will help us fulfill our dream of accruing wealth through real estate and provide a room for our kids should they choose to attend college further away from home.
Getting a college degree does not have to result in tens of thousands of dollars in student loans that will result in thousands of dollars of interest paid. Take advantage of the avenues above to help cut down on your (or your child’s ) college degree costs.
Here are some resources that can help you find additional ways to avoid student loan debt and graduate from college debt free.
Info on scholarships
Books on Cutting College Costs
Friends, don’t resign yourself (or your kids) to a decade or more of paying off student loan debt. Save in advance, and look for ways to cut college costs before your feet hit the college campus. You’ll thank yourself on graduation day.
What steps are you taking to avoid student loan debt?