How to avoid student loan debt and get a great education?

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Everyone has heard the new figures on student loan debt, and they are mind-boggling. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, student loan debt in the United States has now surpassed $1 trillion—that’s more than the total owed by Americans on their credit cards or auto loans. Total student debt is more than five times what it was a dozen years ago.

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There are some 37 million people in the U.S. currently holding student debt, with the national average among undergraduate student borrowers carrying a debt load of about $25,000. As a recent study by NERA Economic Consulting noted, “Student debt loads of $50,000, $100,000, and $200,000 are still the minority, but those high figures are becoming more common.”

What steps can you take to avoid this type of unmanageable debt, while still reaching your educational goals? While no one can single-handedly control the economy, being knowledgeable about trends in the college education market could be
one of the best first steps in making some very important decisions about your future.

Choosing a college is a big decision. Now more than ever, attending your local community college may not only be the best choice, but one of the smartest ones you can make. This valuable local resource not only offers top-notch educational opportunities—it may allow you to complete your chosen field of study on a more sound financial footing.

As a prospective student, you want to find the right “fit” somewhere that will challenge you while providing the guidance you need to reach your goals—whether that means earning your degree, fine-tuning your skill set, or beginning a new career.

While costs at all two- and four-year colleges and universities are rising, tuition and fees at community colleges averaged only 36.2 percent of the average four-year public college tuition and fee bill in 2009, according to the College Board.

But the advantages of a community college education go beyond a pure financial calculation. These benefits include small class sizes and a teaching staff committed to providing individualized attention, along with more night and online classes for the flexibility to fit your busy schedule.

At Spoon River College, bridge programs and transfer agreements are in place to ensure a smooth transition to your destination school after finishing your coursework. In fact, hundreds of students in our region are already taking advantage of these programs each year to get a solid start on their bachelor’s degrees, at a much more affordable price.

Taking all these factors into account, the decision to start at a two year college might not just be the best choice for your educational future, but a very smart one at that.”

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