Money Tips from UCLA, U of Oregon, and Boise State

$1.59 trillion. This is how much Americans aggregately owe in federal student loans. On average, the 43 million or so borrowers owe about $40k each. Just go to a public college, you say? Even graduates of public undergraduate colleges owe, on average, $30k.

This week, we chatted with a few colleges and asked how their students avoid the stress and pressure of owing this much money at such a young age. After all, most college grads don’t experience their peak salaries until many years later, so they aren’t equipped to pay back so much money so soon after graduation.

Here’s what UCLA, University of Oregon, and Boise State financial aid officers said and what it all means.

Pay out of pocket

“Pay out of pocket.” — UCLA financial aid advisor

The financial aid advisor was upfront — albeit rather insensitive — when I asked how UCLA students avoid a hefty student loan debt burden: just pay out of pocket.

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Paying out of pocket is much easier said than done. If every family had the funds to pay out of pocket, wouldn’t they?

While a blunt piece of advice, it’s the surest path to avoiding student loans.

2 of the easiest ways to pay out of pocket are:

  1. Attending a cheaper school
  2. Saving or making more money for college

It’s easier to choose option 1, attending a cheaper school, than it is to somehow squeeze out a higher income or simply “save more.” I direct my students to prioritize tuition exchange programs, state colleges, and community colleges if reducing student loan debt is important. A student could also combine option 1 and 2 by taking a gap year after high school to work and save money for tuition, then matriculating into a local college after a year of working.

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Use college financial aid offices to find scholarships for other schools

“Still look for scholarships not associated with UO.” — University of Oregon financial aid advisor

The financial aid officer was kind enough to direct me to a

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