(BPT) - You've seen the number - $1.2 trillion in unpaid student loan debt hangs over this country. For many college graduates, loans have become another monthly expense of everyday life, like their mortgage and their car payments. If you're considering higher-education, college may be the obvious choice, but a big pile of debt is probably not the mound of money you had in mind as the result of a four-year degree. Still, that first great job, starting your professional career or earning that next big promotion keeps calling. You see the benefits, along with the potential debt of going to school. Now you just need a way to get the former while minimizing the latter.
The good news for aspiring bachelor's degree candidates is there are things you can do to make your college experience more affordable. Below are three strategies for you to pursue, any or all of which can help you move toward your degree while controlling your expenses.
Research online options
Online college options are gaining popularity as a more affordable way to pursue college credits while controlling expenses. However, not all online opportunities are created equal. Before pursuing an online college, research the program to see if you'll have access to educators and coaches to provide help when you need it. After that, you should make sure the program is actually accredited, or that your credits will transfer should you opt to enroll in a more traditional university option at a later date.
One online program that is gaining popularity is DreamDegree's First-Year-Free program, the first online program that enables students to take 10 instructor-guided, university-level general education courses and earn as many as 30 college credits for free. The program is designed to help students get a start on their college education and then transfer to another university with recognized credits and no debt.
'DreamDegree's innovative education model has free personal coaches who field competing offers from accredited four-year schools to register our students and transfer their First-Year-Free credits,' says program founder Michael Clifford.
DreamDegree's First-Year-Free courses have received credit recommendation from the American Council on Education's (ACE) College Credit Recommendation Service, the major coordinating body for all the nation's higher education institutions. Once the student has completed their coursework and is ready to move on, DreamDegree personal coaches help them gain admission and transfer credits to a school in ACE CREDIT's College and University Network of more than 1,600 schools. That school then pays DreamDegree for its student placement services, funding the program.
You can learn more about the DreamDegree program and the 1,600 member schools where your credits could transfer at DreamDegree.org.
Seek additional financial support
If you've applied for financial aid and been turned down, don't despair, there are other resources available that can help you pay for college. You can start by researching grant options in your area. Grants are waiting to be awarded to people all around the country based on their gender, race, marital status, living location or because they - or a family member - belongs to a specific organization or activity. There are also grants available for retuning students and those with past military service. Lastly, if you are already employed in the workforce ask your employer if any financial assistance is available. Your company may not have a formal tuition reimbursement plan but scholarships or funding might exist, particularly if your degree will improve your ability to do your job.
Whether you qualify for financial aid or not, researching and applying for every grant you possibly can is an effective way to make college more affordable. Websites like CollegeScholarships.org are helpful resources for information on federal grants, state grantsand others that may be available to you.
Make your education efficient
If you're seeking to manage your education expenses, make smart, effective choices with your school work. Pick a major that will enable you to find a job or be promoted at the one you already have, and then try to limit or eliminate any courses that won't help you advance toward that degree. Try to finish your degree program as quickly as possible and don't change majors unless it is absolutely necessary. Remember, the longer you stay in school and the more non-essential classes you take, the more debt you will incur, so try to streamline your college curriculum as much as possible.
Start on your path toward affordable college today
A college degree can be the gateway to your first great job or the next one, and if you apply the strategies listed above, there's no reason you can't reach your educational goals at a much more affordable cost. To learn more about how DreamDegree can help you complete one quarter of your degree program for free, visit DreamDegree.org.