How can WE make student loans a thing of the past. I hear people complaining about the massive weight of their student loans and how long it's going to prevent them from starting to really live their life.
Today I'm proposing something different. What if we didn’t have to deal with student loan debt because we avoided it like the plague or like it was some "old school" method of living!
Anthony O Neal has a book called "Debt-Free Degree" that I think is wonderful and highly recommend reading it. Anthony O'Neal's "Debt-Free Degree" book discusses the steps to take from each grade starting in Junior High to achieve a student financial freedom from student loans.
I think most people think that it is impossible to get a degree without a student loan unless your parents are wealthy. I know that I already wrote about my husband graduating from University without any student loan debt
but you are probably thinking...what about MY children's future! I'm proposing that anybody can do this! From the grade 12 student who just learned that his parents are not able to provide financial support for his post secondary education to the grade 6 kid who wants to be a doctor someday.
Let's start at the beginning by counting the cost:
My son is 14 and my RESP calculator speculates that when he goes to University away from home for 4 years in 2025, that it will cost him $125,000!! WOW!
Let's break down the cost:
These numbers are estimates from 2018-2019 so the future projected cost for my son when he graduates in 2025 will be more, based on inflation.
Some student loan debt stats:
The average is $28,000
This chart covers the years 2000-2015 in 5 year increments (https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=3710003601)
It doesn’t seem like that much compared to those that you hear about who owe hundreds of thousands of dollars but it is still a lot of money! And remember that not everyone who has students loan debt graduates!
Much of the cost of post-secondary education is being financed by student loans. Despite the introduction of the Canada Education Savings Grant program and tax-sheltered RESPs, over 40% of post-secondary students finance their education through loans – either government-guaranteed Student Loans or private student debt. This number rises to 50% for university undergraduates.
Student loan debt is a like a stench that lingers no matter how much Febreze you spray and unfortunately only 34% of Canadian students with loans had their loans paid off 3 years post graduation.
According to Canada Student Loans, students typically take between nine and fifteen years to pay off their student loans in full.
Side note: I recently started watching Steph and Den on Youtube: a couple of twenty-two year-olds living in Toronto, working through Den's $45,000 worth of student loan debt and Den has paid off his loan in 2 years! What a goal!! Not aimlessly hoping to pay it off sometime before the Federal Government's allotted 10 years.
Some graduates even declare insolvency, but when you declare insolvency unfortunately that doesn't always make your student loans disappear. Insolvency is a state of financial distress, but not the same as bankruptcy.
This is a crazy statistic for people who are supposed to be bettering their lives via education instead of becoming slaves to debt! What is happening! How can we overcome this?!
Interestingly Stats Canada also found:
"Women filing insolvency are also much more likely to be single parents than men. Looking at student loan debtors, only 8% of men are single fathers while 34% of women with student debt are single mothers."
Another finding was also that student loan debts are not just from the federal or provincial government but that students are even seeking out the worst places to obtain debt like, payday loan sharks with their super high interest loans!
Another complaint about student loans is from those who would like to go to private institutions. However when you look at the stats, only 9% attended private institutions.
How can we help our kids get the Best Education Possible without having to pay the painful consequences of student loan debt, declaring insolvency or swimming away from loan sharks!
7 Action Steps:
1. Shop around, which school's tuition works for you?
I spoke with one student who was planning to attend a smaller college to start with because the tuition was going to be $500-1000 less per year than a larger sized University with the same program. However, sometimes Colleges are looked down upon compared to Universities even though the programs are the same. I definitely was of that opinion when I graduated from University. Over the past couple years more and more colleges are becoming accredited Universities. Just look at Mount Royal University in Calgary and Grant MacEwan in Edmonton.
2. Is staying home and commuting an Option?
A lot of students want to move out right after they graduate, especially the rural students, but at what cost? Do the Math. Does it make sense to pay rent versus paying for gas? How long is the drive? For some it does, for others it's more about wanting to leave the small town life in search of adventure in the big city. I'm a big believer that everyone should experience living in the small town and the big city at least once in their life. However I also believe in common sense.
3. Can you finish in 4 years?
Why is it taking longer and longer for students to graduate from the same programs? Why are single students with no children enrolled in part time students instead of full time? It's understandable when students have families or other obligations.
Common sense and math will tell you that the more years that it takes you to graduate, the more money it will cost you every year that you don't have your degree and can't work in your potential career field! Sometimes, students are taking longer because they haven't done their career research and don't know if they actually want the degree that they originally intended to obtain.
4. What kinds of scholarships and grants can you apply for?
Everyone has something unique about them so look into that unique gifting. Do you play an instrument, sport, hobby, participate in 4H, work at McDonalds or Starbucks? You don't have to be the valedictorian or the most gifted athlete. You just have to be willing to fill out applications and forms. You just have to be intentional! Even if you think that you don't qualify, fill it out anyway because maybe no one else will apply.
I still remember when I incorrectly filled out an application for a grant and the ninety year old lady from my town who was in charge of awarding the grant, invited me over to her home and instructed me on exactly what to include in my application and then after I re-submitted it, she awarded me the $250. Easiest $250 that I've ever had to work for. If I'd of had to actually work for that $250 at my minimum wage $5/hr job in the year 2000, it would have taken me 50 hours, or if I'd of had to pay that amount back in a loan, it would have taken me a month's worth of payments or half a month's worth of payments.
Look at how much the Government of Canada is giving away in grants!
There are stories of people receiving small grants here and there that add up to the cost of their whole education. You don't need to receive the $10,000 or $25,000 grants. Chances are you will be awarded more smaller grants in the $500 range. Every week set out to fill out at least one application. Not only will you potentially receive a scholarship or grant but you are practicing your resume skills and skills for later in life when you enter the workforce.
5. Work while going to school:
Did you know that those who work 10-19 hours a week while attending school get better grades because they have learned how to manage their time more efficiently?
(https://www.sbstatesman.com/2019/10/27/working-while-attending-college-improves-time-management/). However, over 20 hours of work per week, can be detrimental to a student's grades. It's a good life skill to practice balancing your work life, home-life, and friend life.
6. Start Planning in Jr High and High School:
Taking on Post Secondary Education is a huge financial undertaking that requires a lot of planning and hard work to avoid the financial burden of student loan debt.
It's Ok if you are late to the planning party but you need to start NOW! You have to start somewhere! It's never too late!
Make sure to lay out all the costs for you and your student to visually see the cost and make a plan of action to tackle those costs! Work backwards, start with the costs and divide up the cost per year and calculate how many hours per week that your student will have to work to achieve being student loan debt-free! then start applying for grants instead of loans.
7. What is your Return on Investment for your education going to be?
Are you planning to get a degree in a career that only earns $30,000 per year and you spent $125,000 on student loans to get that education? versus earning $80,000 per year and having $10,000 in student loans? How big is your shovel compared to the hole that you are digging?
Now Go and Be Intentional!
Where are you and your student in the planning process?