Clark Howard: How to avoid massive college debt

Student loan payments will start again in October for thousands of borrowers, and that means tighter budgets.

Consumer Advisor Clark Howard said taking out loans should be a last resort.

Philosophy major Janae Russell is headed to George Washington University in the fall, and she’ll be doing it debt free.

“I got the presidential scholarship from GW, and some institutional scholarships and grants, and I’m still currently applying for more. So, hopefully, that goes through,” Russell said.

Gabrielle McCormick with Scholarship Informer said, “You can start applying for scholarships in kindergarten.”

Russell found out about the scholarship by working with McCormick who founded the website, Scholarship Informer.

“She and her team helped find scholarships depending on who you are and the person,” Russell said.

McCormick said, “If you are a student currently taking dual credit classes, you are a college student, so you can begin applying for scholarships because you’ve already been admitted into that particular program.”

Using the same essay, you write for college applications is a great way to simplify the process, according to McCormick. And, applying for multiple scholarships big and small is key.

“If it’s $500 a semester, that could be textbooks. Imagine going through college and not having to pay for textbooks,” McCormick said, “And, look for scholarships that renew.”

“You typically apply once, continue to meet the criteria, and it’s going to hit that account every single semester or year, depending on the particular organization,” McCormick said.

Russell said scholarships were a game changer for her.

“I would not be able to attend the school if I did not get the scholarships,” Russell said.

Consumer Advisor Clark Howard said he loves information like this because of the cost. He loves information like this because student loan debt is such a massive burden on so many former college students.

When you work at in-state schools, consider doing at least your first two years at a community college where the tuition is very low.