An increasingly prominent issue affecting young people today is the debilitating level of student loan debt. Across the US, the problem is particularly monumental.
In Fall 2018, 19.9 million students attended US universities, a number expected to increase to almost 21 million new fall semester students over the next decade.
With growing pressures and opportunities surrounding college enrollment, many universities are relieved to see the recent spike in attendance. But tuition costs are also rising at an alarming rate, so many recent graduates are crippled with debt from the moment they enter the workforce.
In 1987, annual tuition at public universities cost students an average of US$3,190. Thirty years later, annual tuition costs sky-rocketed to an average of US$9,970, a staggering increase of 213 percent.
This increase is shackling students and recent graduates since the current cost of tuition is in no way proportionate to average household income. Growth in minimum wage only really accounts for inflation, jumping from a federal minimum of US$3.35/hr in 1988 to US$7.25/hr in 2018, an increase of around 116 percent.
And the cut-throat job market has no sympathy for the soaring price tag of university tuition. By 2020, 65 percent of all jobs in the US economy will demand training beyond high school and postsecondary education as a prerequisite.
Many students are already feeling the impact of these statistics, and handling debt as a student or young professional can be daunting. But there are solutions that can make the burden far easier to carry.
There are plenty of public and private scholarships, grants and fellowships offered to students all over the country in every field.
Some of these are merit-based while others are based on needs. The latter can be hard to secure if you fall into a fiscal category, which can often mean you don’t have enough money to pay for college but have too much to be considered truly “in need”. It mat take some research, but there really are scholarships available for every demographic.
As Todd VanDuzer, CEO of Student-Tutor, states in his article How to Find and Get Scholarships: “What you want to do is find the scholarships that fit your niche. I mean the things that you’re best at, and the things that you’re passionate about. If you’re an incredible athlete, look for scholarships that care about the same things you do — they’re the ones who will understand your passion and want to fund your future success.”
Be sure to do some extensive research on all kinds of scholarships, whether they’re offered nationally or locally, and find the ones that truly resonate with you.
Chances are, the scholarships that really call your name are those for which you could write a genuine and stellar application.
Scholarships can add up fast, and you won’t have to worry about interest or paying them back. They exist for the exact purpose of making education accessible to young adults, so make sure you’re a part of it!
These 4 scholarships are worth more than $10,000. https://t.co/hbUp0hzILG
— U.S. News Education (@USNewsEducation) December 12, 2018
Though skipping the avocado toast or nights out with friends isn’t going to solve your student loan debt, it will make each individual payment a little less stressful.
Budgeting ensures your money can go towards housing, food, books, tuition and other expenditures rather than accidentally landing yourself in more debt.
Budgeting after graduation can also make handling your loan payments a little less overwhelming. Having a few extra dollars at the end of the month may only be a drop in the bucket of your total debt, but it can help you make your payments on time and avoid interest as much as possible.
Of course, you can do this by cutting back additional expenses or by adding extra work shifts to your schedule, but there’s no reason to sacrifice every enjoyable experience just to make next month’s payment easier to handle. Have a night out with friends, but maybe don’t go out every night or even every weekend. Buy that bottle of wine, but maybe limit yourself to one or two bottles a month.
Anyone who tells you that budgeting like this is a cure-all may be out of touch, but there really is no harm in applying this method. Your future self will thank you for the couple hundred dollars you might save by eating in more or engaging in more cost-free adventures with friends. It will also make those indulgent moments that bit sweeter.
Lucrative career paths
Though it’s important to study areas that will bring you academic and professional fulfillment, developing skills in lucrative fields will make your debt-free life much easier to reach.
Even if you’re only in search of temporary positions to pay the bills and relieve debt as you develop your position in the professional world, a particularly well-paying job is always a great relief.
It’s important to look towards growing fields that will have many available positions in the future. One of these areas is computer science, with coding standing as an increasingly sought-after skill in the job market.
Coding is an excellent source of steady and well-paying employment. By 2020, it’s estimated there will be upwards of one million computer programming positions in the US alone, showing that it’s both a wildly desired skill in this age and one that will stand the test of time.
David Dodge, game designer and CEO of CodaKid, states: “Learning coding is now practically a guaranteed path to the middle class. If you can code well, you can get a high paying job regardless of your educational background…Last year, over half a million computing jobs in the US went unfilled because there weren’t enough engineers to fill them…schools should be shouting about these opportunities from the rooftops and doing everything possible to encourage their students to go to where the jobs are.”
A year and a half ago, James had very little coding experience. Now he’s our junior back-end developer.
— CookiesHQ (@TheCookiesHQ) December 12, 2018
It’s not all doom and gloom
Student debt can be scary and stressful, especially when high balances and interest rates can make it seem impossible to stay afloat.
Make it a little less overwhelming by taking initiative and applying to scholarships, making sure to properly budget before and after graduation, and look towards lucrative career options to help pay off those debts as quickly as possible.