COLLEGE SAVINGS 101

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Success story: How I became debt-free just two years after graduation
http://www.savingforcollege.com/articles/success-story-how-i-became-debt-free-just-two-years-after-graduation-926

Posted: 2016-04-29

by Kathryn Flynn

For over 17 years, Savingforcollege.com has worked hard to bring you unbiased information about the best ways to save and pay for higher education. And as the college savings industry begins to mature and our readers start to pay tuition, we're curious to find out what worked and what didn't. Here's a real-life story from one of our readers who successfully tackled high college costs.

Growing up, Sandra Magura's parents didn't have the money to pay for her college, and looking back, she thinks it was actually a good thing.

"I learned the value of money at a young age having to save for things I want and holding a steady job," says Magura, mom of two and author of the children's book "HippoDuck, Trouble at the Airport".

"I chose colleges that I could afford.... not that my parents had to afford. I think if parents can share in the costs of college that it is great but I know myself I have a greater value for my degree since I had to pay for it," she says.

With very little cash on hand, she knew that if she wanted to go to college, she'd have to choose between taking out a large amount of student loans or somehow bringing down the costs. She chose the latter and currently enjoys living debt-free, but getting there wasn't easy, and involved making some tough (but smart) decisions.

RELATED: Find out what your state has planned for 529 Day

Attend community college

After looking at tuition prices, Magura decided to complete her first two years of course work at her local community college. During this time she lived with her parents rent-free, eliminating any room and board expenses. What's more, Magura was able to schedule her classes to accommodate her part-time job, allowing her to be able to pay each semester's tuition bill in full when it came due and save for future tuition expenses. And because she kept her grades up, she received small scholarships that she used to pay for her books.

The stigma surrounding community colleges has been changing in recent years, making them a viable option for students looking to reduce costs. Not only is there an opportunity to save thousands of dollars on tuition and room and board, but two-year schools generally offer more night classes to accommodate working students and can offer more personalized guidance with smaller class sizes than a traditional four year school.

RELATED: Considering community college: Here are the pros and cons

Complete degree at an in-state public school

Although Magura was accepted into a few highly rated private universities, she decided to continue her education at an in-state public school because of the lower price tag. And although she did have to borrow some money to pay tuition, she was able to graduate with only $15,000 in debt. That amount may seem like a lot, but it's less than half of what the average class of 2015 graduate owed when they finished college.

If students or their parents are planning to use student loans to pay for college, it's important for them to think about the education as an investment. College Liftoff, a firm that helps families develop realistic parameters to buying an education, suggests students borrow no more than the amount of their expecting starting salary. They also recommend that parents should only contribute twice the amount that's borrowed, and will work with students to find scholarships and grants to cover the balance.

RELATED: The biggest college planning mistake parents make

Move back in with parents after college

After graduation, Magura moved back in with her parents where she again lived rent-free for two years. This allowed her to focus on her student loans and pay them off completely before getting a place of her own.

The trend of young adults moving home after college continues today, with 26 percent of millennials living with their parents. High rent costs and declining marriage rates are part of what's keeping the "boomerang generation" at mom and dad's house, but student loan debt is also a factor. A study from the Federal Reserve Board found that for each additional $10,000 a student has in debt, they are 4.6 percent more likely to move in with a parent.

RELATED: Register for our 529 Day Webcast and get your college savings questions answered

For over 17 years, Savingforcollege.com has worked hard to bring you unbiased information about the best ways to save and pay for higher education. And as the college savings industry begins to mature and our readers start to pay tuition, we're curious to find out what worked and what didn't. Here's a real-life story from one of our readers who successfully tackled high college costs.

Growing up, Sandra Magura's parents didn't have the money to pay for her college, and looking back, she thinks it was actually a good thing.

"I learned the value of money at a young age having to save for things I want and holding a steady job," says Magura, mom of two and author of the children's book "HippoDuck, Trouble at the Airport".

"I chose colleges that I could afford.... not that my parents had to afford. I think if parents can share in the costs of college that it is great but I know myself I have a greater value for my degree since I had to pay for it," she says.

With very little cash on hand, she knew that if she wanted to go to college, she'd have to choose between taking out a large amount of student loans or somehow bringing down the costs. She chose the latter and currently enjoys living debt-free, but getting there wasn't easy, and involved making some tough (but smart) decisions.

RELATED: Find out what your state has planned for 529 Day

Attend community college

After looking at tuition prices, Magura decided to complete her first two years of course work at her local community college. During this time she lived with her parents rent-free, eliminating any room and board expenses. What's more, Magura was able to schedule her classes to accommodate her part-time job, allowing her to be able to pay each semester's tuition bill in full when it came due and save for future tuition expenses. And because she kept her grades up, she received small scholarships that she used to pay for her books.

The stigma surrounding community colleges has been changing in recent years, making them a viable option for students looking to reduce costs. Not only is there an opportunity to save thousands of dollars on tuition and room and board, but two-year schools generally offer more night classes to accommodate working students and can offer more personalized guidance with smaller class sizes than a traditional four year school.

RELATED: Considering community college: Here are the pros and cons

Complete degree at an in-state public school

Although Magura was accepted into a few highly rated private universities, she decided to continue her education at an in-state public school because of the lower price tag. And although she did have to borrow some money to pay tuition, she was able to graduate with only $15,000 in debt. That amount may seem like a lot, but it's less than half of what the average class of 2015 graduate owed when they finished college.

If students or their parents are planning to use student loans to pay for college, it's important for them to think about the education as an investment. College Liftoff, a firm that helps families develop realistic parameters to buying an education, suggests students borrow no more than the amount of their expecting starting salary. They also recommend that parents should only contribute twice the amount that's borrowed, and will work with students to find scholarships and grants to cover the balance.

RELATED: The biggest college planning mistake parents make

Move back in with parents after college

After graduation, Magura moved back in with her parents where she again lived rent-free for two years. This allowed her to focus on her student loans and pay them off completely before getting a place of her own.

The trend of young adults moving home after college continues today, with 26 percent of millennials living with their parents. High rent costs and declining marriage rates are part of what's keeping the "boomerang generation" at mom and dad's house, but student loan debt is also a factor. A study from the Federal Reserve Board found that for each additional $10,000 a student has in debt, they are 4.6 percent more likely to move in with a parent.

RELATED: Register for our 529 Day Webcast and get your college savings questions answered

 

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