If you are currently struggling with student loans, you’re not alone. According to Forbes, 44.2 million Americans struggle with student loan debt. For many people, the financial burden of debt infringes upon their quality of life. Thus it is important to pay off loans as soon as possible.
One of the best ways to escape student loan debt is to pursue a degree that will get the highest return on your investment. If you have already graduated college with a bachelor’s degree, you may find that you’re not able to make enough to pay off your debt. Returning to school for a higher-level degree might be just what you need to increase your income enough to pay off your loans faster and easier.
Graduate Degrees Garner Higher Income
One of the biggest advantages of going back to school and obtaining a master’s degree is that doing so will boost your starting salary. This substantial increase in income will enable you to pay off your student loans, as well as get into the career of your dreams.
According to a 2015 study lead by Georgetown University, students who graduate with a master’s degree earn around $17,000 more per year than those who graduate with a bachelor’s degree. As such, students with a graduate degree are able to enter the workforce and earn a higher wage from the start. This significant advantage enables them to pay off their loans quicker.
Of course, this benefit varies across different fields of study. For example, a degree in architectural engineering will tend to net you more income in the job market than a degree in, say, social work. Nevertheless, the Georgetown study found that there was a demonstrable increase in income for graduate degrees over bachelor’s degrees, regardless of the chosen major.
Defer Your Student Loans
If you choose to go back to school, you can temporarily defer your student loans so you don’t have to make payments while attending school. This will ease the strain on your finances while you redirect your mental energy toward graduating in a more lucrative field. Keep in mind, however, that if you have defaulted on previous payments, you may not be able to defer your loans.
Reduce Your Graduate School Loans
Even if you defer your loans, with tuition costs being what they are, you’ll probably have to take out more loans in order to go back to school. This may seem counterintuitive, but if you’re in school to qualify for a higher paying job, it’s actually an investment.
That being said, make the most of this investment by reducing what you take out in loans. You may not be allowed to work part-time, but you might be able to find time to donate plasma, do freelance writing, or apply for scholarships/grants (this last one is HUGE!). Think of anything to supplement your income and lessen what you’ll have to pay back later.
Embrace “College Student Poor”
Everyone hates the “poor college student” lifestyle, but college students have a wealth of money-saving life hacks in their repertoire. And don’t worry — you don’t have to live on instant ramen to save money the college way.
- Cut down on “luxury” expenditures like new clothes, trips to the car wash, and eating out. When you have to go, price-check first and go for the best deal.
- Attend university events with free food (who knows, you might have fun).
- Take advantage of the student gym instead of buying a gym membership.
- Student discounts! They can be found everywhere: movie theaters, museums, car insurance, restaurants, phone plans, etc.
Pay Off Other Debts
Once you’ve graduated and landed your dream job, it might be tempting to live the opulent lifestyle you dreamt of while working your tail off in grad school. But your work isn’t over yet! Paying off smaller debts can make room for paying off another, larger debt (aka your student loans) faster. This is called the Snowball Method, developed by Dave Ramsey, and it really works!
You can also choose to refinance, so instead of making many small payments on various debts, you make just 1 big payment each month that will go toward all of them. You may cringe at such a large payment coming out of your bank account each month, but thanks to refinancing negotiations with each lender, you’re actually paying less than you were before.
Higher Income = Larger Payments
Sticking to the minimum payment on your student loans can cost you thousands in interest in the long term. Put your extra income to good use by making larger payments on your loan—reducing not only how long you will be making payments, but also how much you have to pay off.
Going back to college for a master’s degree is a surefire way to improve your job prospects, open your career, and increase your income. More importantly, it enables you to pay off your student loans once and for all, granting you invaluable peace of mind.