How to Keep College Debt Down

My parents are middle class and so I didn’t qualify for some of the aid given to students through the FAFSA. I also didn’t get the 3 scholarships I applied for. But is there anything else I can get besides loans that’s in time for the fall when I start school at a state school in CA? I really don’t want to pay interest on my loans while I’m in school. Any ideas on what I can do? College is so expensive.

-Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,
College is ridiculously expensive these days. But, it sounds like you might qualify for the Middle Class Scholarship, which is a new program starting this academic year, 2014-2015. You can probably still apply for it, but check out the link I provided and check with your college’s financial aid office ASAP.

Also, see if you can participate in the Federal Work Study Program. Hopefully, when you filled out your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), you indicated that you were interested in doing work study. If you didn’t, you can still call your college’s financial aid office and tell them you’re interested and see if you can still be considered for this program, if they have it. Many colleges do participate in the federal work study program, and that means that they offer jobs (usually on campus) that are available for full-time or part-time students looking for part-time jobs.  Either way, contact them today to check because they have a limited number of slots and they give them to students on a first come, first served basis. To learn more about types of work study jobs, payment, and hours, check out this site.

There are also a variety of campus jobs that can help you pay fees or reduce them, some of them are part of the work study program, and some that aren’t. Some colleges provide you with free meals or discounted meals if you work in the dining commons. This can save a lot of cash. There are a variety of campus jobs at each college ranging from landscaping to leading campus tours, working at a student store to working as a theater usher (if your college has a theater that hosts events). I was a Resident Assistant for two years and that collectively saved me about $22,000 because they paid for my meals and my housing for both years. But, being a Resident Assistant came with a lot of responsibility: I acted as a guide and advisor for 50-60 residents in my dorm, helping them with academic issues, relationship problems, drug/alcohol struggles, eating disorders, etc. It was a challenging job, but I received extensive training and support and learned so much. I also formed some really strong bonds with my co-workers and had a lot of fun putting on educational programs like a breast cancer think pink party fundraiser and sex jeopardy. R.A.’s at some schools have less responsibilities or encounter fewer issues along the way, and some schools offer different types of compensation, but that was my experience at UCSB.

In regards to your loans, you’re right: it is definitely best to avoid paying interest on your loans while in school. For more info on subsidized and unsubsidized loans click here.

Whether you get a work study job, a campus job that doesn’t qualify as work study but still helps pay those crazy fees, and/or you’re awarded the new Middle Class Scholarship, remember to keep your eyes peeled for ways to earn money while in school. It will help you reduce your debt and provide valuable work experience that builds your skills, your resume, and hopefully your network of friends.

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2 thoughts on “How to Keep College Debt Down

  1. In addition to having a job, one of my majors was art, and I took a lot of senior portraits and even shot a couple of weddings!

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