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The first two years of my college experience was spent at a community college. My tuition was covered, but I took out a loan for $20,000 to cover living expenses. Upon transferring to a costly four-year university I received a hefty scholarship, which covered most of my expenses. Still, my loans were at $11,500 per year. The day of my graduation, I received the coveted diploma and a not-so-coveted array of bills for my student loans.
However, the difference between other students and myself was the large sum of money lingering my savings account that I started four years prior. Let me explain how I managed to pay off my bills on the same day that I graduated from college:
Federal Loans Only
The first goal during my college career was to stay away from private student loans because they are nightmares. Trust me, I know. I took out a $5,000 private student loan in my first year of college and watched it as it was passed around from lender to lender and the interest rate jumped around, ranging from 8% to 20%. Not to mention the compounding of interest that increased the loan nearly $1,500 in eight months. Needless to say, I paid that off with every dime that I had to give to it by taking on a job. Please, if you can avoid them, do not take out alternative loans.
The government offers student loans at wonderful interest rates and the government will pay the interest of the loan while you are pursuing your education.
Monthly Payments While in School
Let's evaluate my loans. During years one and two, I took out $7,500 for each year. My plan was to get a job that I could take the money that I would need to pay off the loan in one year and pay it into a high-interest savings account. That meant that for years one and two, I paid $625 into my savings account each month. During years three and four, I took out $11,500 per year, which meant that I had to contribute $960 each month to the savings account. This may seem like a lot of money, but at the time I was single and still didn't have my daughter (until the fourth year), so it was easy to have all of my expenses paid, get a job on the side and contribute all of that money into a savings account.
At the end of the four years, I had contributed $43,000 to my savings account and earned about $1,000 in interest on the money.
On the day of my graduation I was able to pay off my student loans and never had to pay a cent of interest. If you are financially capable to do this, then I suggest that you do it. All it takes is finding extra income through a part time job or funding. You will save thousands of dollars in interest if you can manage this. If you cannot afford to pay the monthly payment, then pay half of it or pay what the interest would be on the loan. That way you can make a lump sum payment at the end of your college education.