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How much does college tuition cost? Without considering the cost of room and board, here are some average tuition costs.

  • Public four-year colleges charge, on average, $7,020 per year in tuition and fees for students who live in their state. The average surcharge for full-time out-of-state students at these institutions is $11,528.
  • Private four-year colleges charge, on average, $26,273 per year in tuition and fees.
  • Public two-year colleges charge, on average, $2,544 per year in tuition and fees.

Source: College Boardstudent loan debts

Seeing the numbers, I would encourage college students to dig up and apply to as many scholarships as you can.

If you haven't already, fill out a FAFSA to see if you qualify for any need based grants. Stay in-state to reduce your educational expenses.

With college tuition on the rise,though, it can be harder and harder to pay for school. More and more students are taking out student loans to cover their costs.

Mint has a wonderful infographic depicting various stats on student loans.

I took a snippet of the infographic to highlight the percentage of college students taking out loans and their average amount of debt.

While some student loans may be needed, sometimes there's a financial danger to taking out large amounts.

Watch Out for Student Loan Lifestyle Inflation

You're in college, live like a college student. To me that means being independent and  focusing on earning what you buy.

Using student loans to frivolously enhance your college education isn't a smart move. Using student loans for books? Good use of the loan in my opinion.

Using student loans to get a Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and/or a Wii? Bad use of money (and possibly setting yourself up for problems if you are a video game addict).

I say this because I've done some of it with a portion of my loans. I got a top of the line computer (it's for school!) and inflated my lifestyle because it felt good to have money.

The truth was I needed to live within my means and should've taken enough to cover my college expenses.

If you're cutting costs as best you can and you're getting a quality education, I think low interest student loans are an option to consider.

However, I'd ask you to run the numbers and see how much of a burden your student loans will be after you graduate. What is the average income of a graduate in your major?

Another option, if you are currently employed, is to ask your boss about the possibility of receiving employer tuition reimbursement.

An increasing number of businesses are offering this to their employees because it allows them to improve their skills and keeps them with the organization long-term.

Training new employees is expensive, so by making an investment in the future of their workers, businesses are able to hang on to them for much longer.

Online courses have made this option even more viable, since you would not have to take time away from work to earn your degree.

Thoughts on Student Loans for College

Do you think it's possible to a get a quality education without ANY student loans? What amount of student loans makes you uneasy?

About Elle Martinez

Elle Martinez helps families at Couple Money achieve financial freedom by sharing tips for reducing debt, increase income, and building net worth. Learn how to live on one income and have fun with the second..

9 comments add your comment

  1. I think it’s possible to get out without student loans if you’re a very careful student, qualify for grants and scholarships, perhaps do work-study, and live modestly while a student. Check out the free e-book at for ideas of how to get through college without paying anything in tuition. The site is a bit cluttered, but the author has some neat ideas.

    I’m going back to school next week (eek!) after being out for more than a decade. Student loans are on my horizon, but I’m old enough and (hopefully) wise enough to use them for their intended purpose; none of it will go toward keggers or sorority parties, for example!

    In California, if you make under a certain amount, your tuition at community college is waived. Handy for those wanting to get new skills after a job loss, right? If you have a low income, another great program is the IDA, individual development accounts, which match every dollar you save to be used toward higher education. I’m saving $2,000 and will be matched with another $4,000, which will certainly help with the tuition at the private college I’m attending.

    I’ll likely graduate with about $10k in subsidized student loans. To me, it’s a worthwhile debt.

  2. Parents and counselors should be brutally honest. Unless your school is in the Top 25 of schools in the nation, don’t you dare go out and take a loan.

    Work part-time, go to community college then transfer into a better school.

  3. @TSQ: Thanks for sharing the resource! I wish you well as you go back to school. It sounds like a reasonable program for some California residents.

    @Sam: I think you bring up a subject not often discussed with finances and college. How do you define when a college degree is an investment and you take out a loan?

    Can you imagine if besides listing the top 25 colleges that they also have a list of schools that aren’t worth the tuition? That would be something to discuss!

  4. I would say that anything over ten thousand dollars in student loans starts to scare me. As a student, you should first aim for scholarships, internships (paid ones hopefully), co-ops and part time jobs before considering loans. Considering lifestyle choices can make all the difference when it comes to a student’s financial success. Living at home, taking public transportation, and limiting the amount of times you eat out are all good ways to save money in college.

  5. @Moneyedup: I’m with you- exhaust all grant/scholarship options before you go for student loans. It does take time to apply for different scholarships, but it can be well worth the effort.

  6. My husband and I both graduated college with student loans. Compared to the amounts kids are taking out today, ours were small but we didn’t think so at the time. We vowed our kids wouldn’t have to start in the hole like we did. I started learning about and planning for scholarships and grants when the oldest was a freshman. We worked very hard to ensure they did well in school and narrowed their areas of extracurricular activities so they could focus on the two or three they really loved. All three went to school on full academic and varsity sport scholarships. They don’t have a dime of debt and we gave them the money we had set aside for their education since it wasn’t needed. None of this was easy – it took a lot of time and effort but once you get the hang of it you learn how to work the system efficiently (that’s why two of our kids went to the same college although they participated in different sports). If things hadn’t worked out as they did, they probably would have gone to a community college to start (no one ever knows) or to the major state university near us while living at home. I laugh when I hear nieces and nephews talking about the grand college plans they’re making (e.g. I’ll only go to a school in the south; or it’s Ivy League for me) without calculating the costs to themselves or their parents. Why would you pay out-of-state tuition for a degree offered by every in-state school (eg education, business)? It also infuriates me when parents feel guilty limiting choices! They’d rather saddle themselves and their children with years of debt rather than say no we can’t afford to send you there. The only employer who really cares where you went to school is the first. After, it’s your performance and experience that counts! Sorry for the long rant but this is a hot topic for me since I just started back to school myself!

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