Students take action to reduce college debt

By Marcie Arriola
Pulse staff reporter

Photo of Palo Alto student getting help from a financial aid staff member.
Palo Alto student receives help from a Financial Aid staff member.

With the cost of college tuition rising, accumulating debt seems inevitable. However, the situation is not hopeless. With some planning, it is possible to minimize student debt.

According to a report from the Institute for College Access & Success’ Project on Student Debt, the average debt for a student graduating in 2012 was $29,400. Depending on a student’s situation and chosen college, this number can vary greatly from student to student. This may seem discouraging, but here are four simple tips to put you on the path to minimizing student debt.

Apply for scholarships and grants. If you haven’t done so already, the first step is filling out a FAFSA form. This is the most valuable form to all college students, as it is a form that determines eligibility in receiving student financial aid, like grants and scholarships. The form can be located at .

“A lot of people don’t want to take the time out to have to write the essays (for scholarships) and do the paperwork, so they miss out on getting a lot of money to help pay off their tuition,” said April Crouch, a Business major.

Budget. Budgeting is a word that is heard repeatedly, but it is a word even more important to those furthering their education. Having a budget allows you to manage your finances by seeing how much money you have and where it’s going (or needs to go). As this article shows, it can be very easy to go over budget, especially with little splurges that add up over time. With a clear plan, it is also just as easy to avoid debt.

Seek out student financial advising. This is another strategy that many students don’t always think or know about. Often there are events on college campuses that offer guidance for students who don’t know where to begin. If none are available, many websites offer free tools with money-saving tips. In addition, Alamo College’s Financial Literacy program, provides students with learning opportunities on the importance of financial planning, managing money and understanding debt.

Avoid credit cards. If you already have student loans, obtaining credit card debt is something you want to prevent entirely. Credit cards can be great in an emergency situation; however, it’s easy to put more expenses on them than you otherwise anticipated. Limit yourself to having one card that you are able to pay off in full at the end of each month. Otherwise, late fees will add up quickly and hurt your credit score.

“I chose community college because it was cheaper,” said Brian Cruz, a psychology major.

You’re already on the right track of minimizing debt by taking classes at a community college. Classes offered at community colleges are less costly than at a university. Tuition and fees for an academic year at Palo Alto average $2,082,  while the same would cost $8,410 at the University of Texas – San Antonio.

If your goal is to make money upon graduating from school, then budgeting and learning about finances early on is the best way to start habits that will benefit you well after your graduation.