Paying off College

Graduating from college can be an exciting time. Preparing to foray into the ‘real’ world to begin life is a bittersweet experience at best. Almost 1.6 million students will be graduating college in 2009*. Of that, two-thirds of them will have student loans; and around seventy percent will have credit card debt*. Add to that the looming unemployment rate and current rate of lay-offs, bankruptcies and other business fatalities and graduation may be more bitter than sweet. Welcome to the’ real’ world!
Unfortunately, the foray may be short-lived. Most companies that scout and hire college graduates have seriously cut the percentage of new-hires for 2009. If you are not at the top of your game, you may be left in a dismal situation. So what is a graduate to do with all that debt? Buckle down and be prepared for a wild ride.

If you are not one of the chosen few who are getting recruited right out of college then it’s time to consider career alternatives; or rather, ‘income’ alternatives. One of the first, most secure and pretty obvious alternatives is the armed forces. Although not every college graduate’s first choice, in today’s economy it may be one of the most lucrative. The armed forces offer many great programs to college graduates and with a college degree many graduates can go in as an officer. Another advantage would be that many companies look favorably upon job applicants with military service, giving a graduate with only an average GPA a hand up. Therefore, a four-year investment of time may really pay off in the end. Additionally many graduates are offered lump sum bonuses to sign right away or to go into a particular field and the amount may help pay down or off college debt.

If the military is not for you then maybe you should consider turning that four-year degree in to a six-year one. Unfortunately, you are just avoiding the inevitable, but most likely the economy will be in better shape and your chances of being recruited before or at graduation will probably be better, especially taking into consideration the higher degree attained.

Another possibility is to do a bit of research into careers that will actually pay off those student loans in trade for a commitment of two to four years working in an urban or rural area or working for a specific organization. An example would be to teach subjects like mathematics and science in underdeveloped areas or to work at a hospital in a certain location or career area (such as being a male nurse or working in oncology). Usually the term of commitment is very small compared to the amount of time you will spend in that career in a lifetime.

If you are not persuaded by any of the above creative solutions then finding the best job and laying down a budget to help pay off those student loans and credit cards is your best bet. Calling the loan and credit card companies before you get into trouble is also a good idea. Most would rather work with you than to have to write off or legally recover the funds due. Moreover, with financial industries in as much trouble as everyone else they will most likely try to recover the funds, which could mean foreclosure, repossessions and wage garnishments. Living within your budget and putting back funds for life’s little unexpected events and emergencies will be the key to positive financial survival. If you are not good with money then by all means, get help. Being financially responsible can only pay-off later in life.

It is unfortunate that graduates have to struggle financially after college but perhaps there is a silver lining in those dark clouds. Maybe, the graduates of tomorrow having to buckle down and become financially responsible early in life will create good habits passed down to future generations that will manufacture a stronger people and nation.

*National Center for Education Statistics