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Money in a jar for a college fund. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Posted February 23, 2017 by

17 strategies that can help you graduate from college debt free

 

College is expensive. And student loan debt is on the rise. While many believe the only way to graduate from college debt free is by receiving an academic or athletic scholarship, there are actually several strategies one can implement to graduate from college debt free – or with much less debt than the average college student graduates with – which is just over $30,000.

It’s not easy and it could make the path to graduation more challenging, but it can be done. It starts by planning in advance and digging deep to find ways to accomplish this goal.

“The days of going to college without any real pre-planning or self-evaluation are over,” says Bob LaBombard, retired CEO of GradStaff, a company that helps college students and recent college grads identify where there skills fit in the job force  “It’s just too costly and risky.”

Consider these facts: More than half of college students change their major at least once. Further, recent data shows that only about 56 percent of students entering college graduate within six years; almost half drop out.

“Clearly, lack of a clear-cut plan often causes students to waste time, precious tuition dollars and, ultimately, interest in completing a degree,” says LaBombard.

There are many strategies that can help college students cover the high costs of obtaining a college degree, and if done correctly, graduating debt free. We highlight those strategies here:

(more…)

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Posted February 21, 2017 by

10 employers that offer tuition assistance for part-time employees

 

It’s no secret that college tuition is expensive. And it’s no secret that student loan debt is an issue because of this. In fact, nearly seven in 10 seniors who graduated from public and nonprofit colleges in 2015 had student loan debt, with an average of $30,100 per borrower, according to the Institute for College Access & Success.

But there are surefire ways to lessen student debt load, while gaining valuable job skills and experience at the same time. (more…)

10 unique side jobs to help pay student loan debt - rock climbing instructor

Posted February 16, 2017 by

10 unique side jobs that can help pay off student loan debt

 

Robin Rectenwald has a full-time job working for WordWrite Communications a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania public relations firm, that she absolutely loves. But that hasn’t stopped her from finding unique side jobs to help pay off her student loan debt. Rectenwald graduated from Duquesne University in 2012 with 20 different student loans and $100,000 in loan debt. Now, in 2017, she only has five loans left, and is quickly whittling down the amount she owes.

Before landing her first full-time job in 2012, Rectenwald worked part-time as a customer service representative at Gateway Clipper Fleet, a Pittsburgh sightseeing organization. She worked in the ticket and sales office, where she learned about marketing, sales and customer service – all valuable skills in her current role – and for any future opportunities. She worked for Gateway Clipper Fleet for four years, using that money to make extra payments towards her school loans. Rectenwald recently switched to a new part-time job as a customer care representative at ShowClix, a ticketing software company. For this job, she works from the comforts of her own home answering phones and responding to emails from customers looking to buy tickets to international events.

“Even though I’ve grown as a professional in the PR field and have had a number of promotions that increased my salary since starting out as an entry-level professional, I continue to work a part-time job because I’m trying to save as much money as possible,” says Rectenwald. “With this part-time income, I’ve been able to pay off several student loans and I’m currently using this extra money to pay tuition out-of-pocket for grad school.”

Rectenwald takes these part-time jobs seriously, and puts in maximum effort – something her managers have noticed. She was offered a full-time job in the marketing department at Gateway Clipper Fleet, and is writing a crisis communication plan for ShowClix as part of her grad school program.

“These part-time jobs have not only expanded my network and presented additional career opportunities, it has also given me a unique perspective on marketing and communication strategies.”

And it’s also helped her greatly reduce her student loan debt, and time it would take to pay the loans back.

That’s what Eric Hian-Cheong is also trying to accomplish. He works full-time for a public relations firm in McLean, Virginia, but also has two, unique part-time jobs. He makes $11 an hour as a part-time rock climbing instructor at a local fitness center, and also works as a second shooter/assistant to a local wedding photographer.

“Why limit yourself to just one other part-time job?” said Hian-Cheong.

He works up to 8 hours a weekend, and nets up to $400 a month as a rock climbing instructor – which is right around what he pays each month for his student loans. That job also provides a free gym membership – saving him another $95 a month in gym membership fees.

These jobs have helped Hian-Cheong improve his self-confidence, he says, and also provides an incredible social life outside of the 9-to-5 job.

“I have several friends whose social lives revolve around their 9-to-5, which can get a little unhealthy at times,” says Hian-Cheong.

It’s also helped him network and communicate with a wide variety, and diverse group of people, helping him develop communication, interpersonal, critical thinking, and speaking skills, as he must provide instructions, detail, and clarity, when instructing individuals and a class.

Rectenwald and Hian-Cheong are among the many recent college grads supplementing their income, and paying off student debt with the help of a unique side job. What are some other unique part-time job opportunities one can pursue to help make extra cash to pay off student loans? Consider some of these options:

(more…)

Gold image of graduate chained to debt. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Posted February 09, 2017 by

Ask Matt: Make a plan! 12 strategies for dominating student loan debt

Dear Matt: I recently graduated from college and it’s almost time to start paying back my student loans. I have over $50,000 in student loan debt, and it seems almost overwhelming to have to pay all this back, especially with many other expenses. Fortunately I have landed a job, and am making a decent salary. That helps, but I’m feeling financial pressure to make it all work. Do you have any tips or resources for people like me seeking advice on how to manage the overwhelming burden of paying back student loans/debt?

Matt: I cringed when I heard the numbers. My niece is in her second year of college and has already accumulated $65,000 in student loan debt. “But it’s totally worth it,” she said, before leaving for London for a month-long school-sponsored education program. She’s right in the fact that a college degree, and the experiences that come with it, are worth it. But it’s painful to see so many young students accrue so much debt. She may realize that as well – after one year at a private school, she’s now going to a public university and back living at home as a way to cut costs.

Her story reminded me of my cousin who accumulated over $120,000 in student loan debt. Her first job was for a large financial institution (her degree was in education, from a private school). Her boss at that job, only a few years older, didn’t go to college, had no student loan debt, and made more money than her. Those two eventually got married – which is how I know this story – but that in itself is a whole other story.

Why do I tell these tales? Because these are common stories for today’s college student and college graduate. And while it doesn’t change this reader’s situation – or pay their debt, any recent college graduate with student debt should understand that you are not alone, and that there are resources out there to help you.

In fact, nearly seven in 10 seniors (68%) who graduated from public and nonprofit colleges in 2015 had student loan debt, with an average of $30,100 per borrower, according to the Institute for College Access & Success.

When I paid back my student loans after graduating from Minnesota State University, Mankato (Mankato State University back then), I did it without a plan, or real understanding of the options available to me. I simply read the letters sent to me, submitted the pay stub and check to the loan servicing company (no online payments back then) each month, and cringed as it seemed like a lingering debt that would never go away.

Don’t be like me. Don’t go about paying back student loan debt without a plan. Take advantage of the many online resources available, and heed advice from financial experts like Phil Schuman, Director of Financial Literacy at Indiana University (IU). Schuman unleashed multiple financial literacy initiatives in the past four years, and reduced undergraduate student borrowing across IU by nearly 14 percent – which comes out to a whopping savings of $78 million, since introducing his financial literacy efforts.

It’s tough to start one’s professional career drowning in debt. But don’t let that debt dominate your life.

“While it’s extremely important that you get rid of (student loans) as fast as you possibly can, make sure you don’t do it at the expense of your wellness,” says Schuman. “If there are things in life that are important to you and keep you going, even if they cost a little bit of money, make sure to keep them as part of your life. Having those things in your life will help keep you motivated and energized to continue tackling your student debt.”

Katie Ross, Education and Development Manager for the American Consumer Credit Counseling, an organization that provides information and guidance on issues such as identity theft, credit, debt and budgeting, agrees.

“There is a stigma about being in debt that causes many borrowers to prioritize eliminating student loan debt over other financial objectives like saving for a house or for retirement,” says Ross. “If possible, do not neglect saving for retirement just to expedite student loan repayment.”

I get it – it’s hard to think about saving for retirement – let alone making monthly rent payments, car payments, or even going out on the weekend – when that large monthly loan payment looming. But it can be, and will be done. You will get out of debt. But it’s not easy, and takes planning, preparation and diligence.

Get out of student debt by following these tips:

1. Take ownership of your debt: “You need to realize that you are in charge of how quickly your debt can go away,” says Schuman. “Don’t allow yourself to blame others for your debt being there or hope that others will help you get rid of it. Own your debt and get rid of it as fast as possible.”

Set a “done with debt” date and then do everything you possible can to meet it.

2. Create an efficient budget: A carefully planned budget will help any individual gain a better understanding of their financial outlook and how they’ll need to adjust their lifestyle to afford to live, save, and pay off debt. “Knowing how much money you have to dedicate to paying off students loans and what expenses can be reduced is the best place to start when trying to figure out how to eliminate student loan debt quickly,” says Ross.

3. Calculate payments: At StudentLoans.gov, borrowers can access a repayment estimator that will help them understand how much their monthly payments will be under different repayment plans. Because the site accesses borrowers’ specific student loan files, repayment calculators can show each graduate repayment details that are unique to their specific loans. This will also let borrowers see what the interest rates are on their different loans and what they will pay in interest using different repayment options.

4. Worry about the amounts, not the interest rates: “Before I explain myself I do want to assure you that I do understand math,” jokes Schuman. It might seem contradictory to not focus on the interest rates of a debt, but paying off debt is more a matter of psychology than it is math, he says. In the case of focusing on paying off debts by interest rates, while it will allow you to pay less in interest when all is said and done it is difficult to tackle debt when you don’t see the numbers go down fast. If you pay off your debts by prioritizing the one with the lowest balance – and still paying the minimums on all other debts – you’ll see your number of debts go down faster, which will motivate you to keep tackling your debt.  Once you get rid of the first debt, apply the money you used to pay off that debt and apply it to the one that now has the lowest balance, and so on.

5. Understand relief eligibility: While logged into the Federal Student Aid website, borrowers should read up on different relief programs that are available to military personnel, public servants, persons with disabilities, and other individuals, points out Ross. The details of the programs are important because borrowers might already be eligible or can become eligible based on the industry they enter upon joining the workforce. Some may qualify to have their loans discharged or forgiven after just 10 years of on-time payments.

6. Choose a loan repayment plan: Those who can afford it and are interested in getting out of debt quickly should choose whichever plan has the highest payments and the shortest repayment period. Anyone in any plan can accelerate their repayment by paying a little more than their minimum payment each month. This will save the most in interest over the life of the loans.

7. Make one extra monthly payment per year: Making 13 payments a year instead of 12 can help save big on interest. Learn more about that strategy in the article Paying off Student Loan Debt: 5 Tips.

8. Contact the loan servicing company: Graduates and other borrowers should know which company is handling their student loan debt. Student loan repayment and billing for some borrowers is not handled by the government itself but by a loan servicing company. Getting in touch with the loan servicing company will help borrowers update their contact info, learn about potential ways to reduce interest, and get up-to-date details about how much they still owe.

9. Enroll in autopay: If borrowers are financially able, the easiest way to ensure that their loans are taken care of is to enroll in a service that automatically deducts their loan payment from their bank account each month. Plus, this protects grads from missing payments and hurting their credit, says Ross.

10. Be cautious about refinancing student loans: Many new grads obsess over their debt and paying it off as quickly as possible, says Ross. Know that refinancing comes with risks like losing the benefits offered with federal student loans. Also, your credit need to be in really good shape in order to refinance and get a good interest rate. If you do choose to refinance, be careful about choosing a fixed or variable interest rate. Interest rates, which are set by the Federal Reserve, are likely to increase, which could be harmful to your debt repayment plans, says Ross. Be sure to carefully read all terms and conditions when refinancing.

11. Set up an emergency fund: Don’t accelerate payments on deductible student loan debt until you’ve set aside six to 12 months of “emergency” money, says Beth Walker, CCPS, CRPC®, a Partner and Personal CFO for The Wealth Consulting Group and founder of Center for College Solutions, a resource for families and college students whose goal is to reduce the stress – and costs of attending college.

“This seems counterintuitive but student loan debt is still relatively ‘cheap’ and having liquidity, use and control of capital is the foundation to a strong financial future,” says Walker.

12. Find a way to focus on the future: This may seem years away, but remember this tip: Once the loans are paid off, immediately direct the monthly loan payment toward a long-term savings program. “You’ve learned to live without using that cash flow in your current lifestyle up to this point, so take advantage of that fact and fund your future lifestyle with the equivalent of your education loan payments,” says Walker.

So you have student loan debt. That’s reality. Don’t let it get you down. Develop a plan for success. And heed the advice from experts. By reading this article you’ve already received advice from a financial literacy expert, a manager from a consumer credit counseling agency, and a financial planning expert who has a decade of experience helping families and individuals pay off student debt.

That’s a good start. That’s more than I ever did – and more than most people do.

Keep it up and you will dominate your student debt.

Matt Krumrie CollegeRecruiter.com

Matt Krumrie is a contributing writer for CollegeRecruiter.com

About Ask Matt on CollegeRecruiter.com
Ask Matt is a new monthly career advice column that offers tips and advice to recent college grads and entry-level job seekers. Have a question? Need job search or career advice? Email your question to Matt Krumrie for use in a future column.

Posted December 05, 2014 by

5 Tips for Finishing a Degree While You Work or Travel

College student reading outdoors lying in the grass

College student reading outdoors lying in the grass. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Not every high school student or young adult is set on acquiring a college diploma through the traditional four-year college experience, or right away. And with so many options to obtain and finish degrees at your disposal, you simply don’t have to. Whether it’s because you’re already working hard at your own start-up or you’ve just secured the internship of your dreams, you may find that an undergraduate or graduate degree is something you are only interested in pursuing on the side.

If you know a college degree is important, but you don’t want to take a break from the life you’re living to get it, here are five tips to finishing your college degree while you travel the world, intern for public radio, or slave away at your very own tech start-up. (more…)

Posted May 07, 2014 by

The price of not attending college

Putting money into college savings

Putting money into college savings. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Many high school graduates fret over their future, and for those following the news, the situation may seem murkier than ever. Forbes reports that the nation’s “$1 trillion student loan problem keeps getting worse,” and according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, college graduates are greeted with “crummy” jobs and fewer full-time options. Students weighing their options might begin to wonder if college is even worth it anymore. Well, a new report says it is. In fact, recent research suggests the only thing less affordable than college is not going at all. (more…)

Posted February 13, 2014 by

How Much is It Worth Going to College?

The answer to this question likely depends on what you want to do and what lifestyle you want to live.  While I believe college is a worthwhile investment, the reality is that pursuing a higher education costs money and a prospective student has to decide what is best for himself or herself.  If you are considering going to college, the following infographic may help you decide if this investment is worth it. (more…)

Posted January 23, 2014 by

Don’t Think Gen Y Want Entry Level Jobs? What Critics Should Know About Them

If you’re one of the Millennials out there who works hard, you might find it insulting when people say that your generation doesn’t want to work.  It’s not that all of you don’t want entry level jobs, but sometimes that is the impression left in the minds of others.  In the following post, learn why critics of Gen Y should be more careful when speaking of this group.

Some of the most repeated knocks on GenY by the Millennial-bashing experts in media-land are that they’re selfie-posting, social-media-crazed underachievers. While there’s no solid defense for taking excessive selfies, spreading hateful rhetoric about a generation you don’t understand is about as useful and savvy as selling used

Read this article:

Continue Reading

Posted September 12, 2013 by

College Freshmen, Avoid These 15 Financial Errors

College student holding money and books, upset by tuition cost and debt

College student holding money and books, upset by tuition cost and debt. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

If you are a college freshman who wants to make the most of your financial situation, be sure to avoid the 15 mistakes mentioned by Kiplinger in the following post.

·         Spending without a budget—students might not have much experience tracking their spending, but their checking account balance could quickly hit $0 if they don’t take the time to find out where their money is going on a day-to-day basis.

·         Paying for a checking account—it’s become harder to find free checking accounts with no strings attached, but many banks offer free student accounts with no minimum balance. (more…)

Posted June 24, 2013 by

Going Back to School? Consider an Online Degree

Ashley Dunlap

Ashley Dunlap

If you are considering going back to school, you should definitely take into consideration the benefits of earning a degree online. For those of you with children, as well as those of you who are already working professionals, online courses could be a smooth transition for you and fit in your lifestyle.

There are benefits on both sides of the table, but an online degree for returning students can outweigh traditional, on-campus education in certain circumstances. Continue reading for my top 4 list of benefits of an online degree. (more…)