Your college degree is the best investment you can make for your future. But costly mistakes can undermine your best efforts. Here’s what to avoid and some thoughts on a better approach:
Mistake: Taking forever to finish your college degree. The Indiana Commission for Higher Education estimates that every additional year students spend in college costs at least $50,000 in tuition, fees and lost wages.
Solution: Taking 30 credits per year is the best way to graduate on time and finish within your budget. Plus, under Indiana law, students must complete 30 credit hours each of their four years of college—an average of five classes per semester—to keep their maximum amount of state financial aid.
Mistake: Using your student loans for other spending.
Solution: Borrow only what you need. Student loans should be used with caution. The more debt you have, the more you will have to pay—and work—to keep up with the monthly payments that begin six months after you graduate. Supplement your student income with a part- time job and scholarships. Avoid consumer debt, too, such as credit cards and car loans.
Mistake: Not keeping track of what you spend.
Solution: Look at where your money is going on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. You can easily track your money with an app on your phone. Knowledge is power— when you know more, you can save more.
The average Indiana college student loan debt is $29,561. The Institute for College Access estimates you’ll need to earn an estimated $40,824 (or 10 percent of your gross income for 10 years) to afford the $340.20 monthly payment (based on a 6.8 percent interest rate).
TRUSTED FINANCIAL ADVICE
- FAFSA.ed.gov offers up-to-date federal financial student aid advice and planning tools.
- InvestedIndiana.org gives advice on financial literacy, student loans and options for Indiana students.
- LearnMoreIndiana.org is a complete resource standing behind you, dedicated to helping you accomplish your education the way you want and following your dreams as closely as possible.
- Moneysmarts.iu.edu offers classes, a podcast and helpful advice on avoiding debt and spending more wisely.
- Purdue.edu/mymoney provides web-based, reliable budgeting tools and a student loan calculator.
Additional resources include Forbes, Money Magazine, Nerd Wallet and financial experts and coaches including Pete the Planner, Dave Ramsey, Chris Hogan and others.