Student debt has made its way down to Generation Z!

In 2019, Forbes Magazine showed that in the U.S. alone there were 45 million people who owed over $1.5 trillion in student loan debt! Having a college education, nowadays, has placed a hurdle on us as individuals as we try to face adulthood while overcoming student debt!

This accumulation of student debt in our society has crippled individuals financially but also socially! Thanks to student loans, individuals are postponing major purchases like buying their first home or starting a family until their debt is paid off. As an individual who just graduated from college and am now facing monthly loan payments, I completely understand why these things are being put off!

For instance, I went to the University of Arkansas where the yearly cost for a non-resident is $42,632. Honestly, looking at that price right now is completely shocking. With a four-year degree plan and no financial aid, this student is looking at a degree costing $170,529.

Thankfully, there are resources to limit the amount of student debt you take out before, during, and after you go to college! That’s how I walked away from college with less than $11,000 in debt with minimal financial help from my parents.

The best way to start off strong is to think about how to save money before taking out loans!

Preventing Debt Before College

So, you’ve applied for colleges, that’s great! Where did you apply? When applying for colleges, the price tag is equally as important to think about as the location is! It might not seem like it now, but six months after you graduate, those payments will speak for themselves!

When I applied for the University of Arkansas, my SAT and ACT scores allowed me to get 90% of the difference between out-of-state and in-state tuition covered! This was pivotal in my decision-making process.

If the school you decide to go to is still pricey, then think scholarships, scholarships, scholarships! There are millions of scholarships out there just waiting to be won! You’ll be shocked at how many scholarship databases there are. Just by taking an hour every day and applying for as many as you can just might be the difference between thousands of dollars of debt.

Finally, there’s financial aid! Apply for FAFSA and see what free money the government is willing to give you! That was my course of action; By applying for FAFSA, I was given the Pell Grant each year.

Once you’ve entered college you can take action to keep your loans minimal!

Fighting Debt During College

Alright, you’re in college now and you might be wondering how you can overcome student debt while you’re in college! My biggest piece of advice is to get a job and live below your means!

When I was in college, I became a Resident Assistant. This means I got free housing and a free meal plan along with a monthly stipend and the opportunity to make more money working at the front desk! But it also meant that I had 50-60 college freshmen on my own floor to manage let alone the close to 800 residents in the building that I helped supervise overall.

Not going to lie, this was a pretty sweet deal, and it was definitely not easy. While some of my best memories were made being an RA, there were times where I wanted to quit and live off-campus with my friends. At the end of the day, though, I stuck with it remembering I didn’t want the financial burden that came with it! Granted, I didn’t have a car, and that was also a major factor!

All in all, while I would highly recommend applying to be a Resident Assistant, my main point is to find a job while you’re in school if you can! Having some sort of income while you’re in school can help in the long run to not take out as much debt!

I can easily say that having a job during undergrad was hard, but it is the main reason I was able to walk away with such a few loans.

Overcoming Student Debt After College

Congratulations, you’ve graduated from college and are now out in the real world! While this is a big transition, thankfully, you have a grace period of six months after you’ve graduated before having to start paying back your loans.

These six months are instrumental before at least a 10-year commitment of paying off debt. So, what did I do? I moved home! Even though this move took a shot to my pride, I knew that it would pay off for me in the long run, and it has! I can say that not having to worry about rent payments these last few months has allowed me to chuck a ton of money in my savings.

I realize this isn’t a luxury everyone shares, so if this isn’t you, then budgeting should be your focus! This is where living below your means is so important! If you’re making a salary right out of college, look at how much you can give each month to your loans while not starving yourself. If you can knock out the majority of your student loans sooner than later then it will only help you! This might mean cutting back on buying coffee or having the nicest appliances or newest clothes, but it will mean being financially free faster.

By moving home, I was able to take what would have been my rent money each month and put that in my savings account. At the end of this month, I plan on paying off half of my student debt thanks to how I’ve saved these last few months!

Looking Forward

If it’s nearly impossible to get a degree without taking out some kind of financial assistance, then we need to learn how to overcome this debt faster! If you look long-term, each of us are paying way more than we originally took out because of the accumulated interest. So, not only are we paying monthly for the next 10 years, but we’re also shelling out money just because.

Each of us has the opportunity to live financially free if we take action today! Whether you’re graduating from high school, in college, or are a post-grad, overcoming student debt is possible!