A Publication of WTVP

Many of this year’s college graduates, with fresh diplomas in hand, have something extra to go with their sheepskins—student loan debt. While the average 2006 graduate had more than $19,000 in debt, some graduated with up to six-figure debt. Here are five tips that may help college students who are dealing with debt:

• Take advantage of scholarship and grant opportunities. Each year thousands of dollars go unused that could’ve been awarded to resourceful students to help pay for college expenses. The amount of money received vs. time spent researching funding opportunities works out to much more than the average student can earn at a job in the same amount of time.

• Draw on the resources of the college’s or university’s financial aid department. Most schools offer on-campus jobs and have their own special grants and scholarships. If a student loan is the only option, be sure to get a recommendation on the best loan options.

• Consider community college for the first two years. Taking your core classes at a local community college and transferring them to the university or college of choice for your last two years of school can be cost effective. If graduate school is in your plans, weigh the advantages of a lower-cost school for your undergraduate degree.

• Allow for student loan debt in future financial planning. Make sure you plan for the expense of paying back student loans once you graduate. As far as is possible, determine the total amount of the loans and what the monthly payment might be when payments begin. Keeping that payment amount in mind may help in making the right financial decisions and to avoid overextending yourself after graduation.

• Be careful with credit cards. For most college students the years in school are lean when it comes to extra money, and credit card offers are abundant. Credit cards shouldn’t be used as a source of income. If you don’t have the money for fast food and a movie, use the meal plan you’re already paying for and take advantage of the free or low-cost entertainment offered at the school or in the community. IBI