A college education plays a critical role in today’s modern workplace.

Without a college education, it’s often difficult to find employment that pays more than minimum wage. While a bachelor’s degree or an associate’s degree is important for finding a job, it can be difficult to finance.

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The following guide explores different ways one can finance a college education.

Finding Student Loans and Grants

Federal student loans can be an excellent way to cover the cost of tuition, supplies, and housing when attending college. Most federal student loan programs offer low interest rates, deferred payment plans, and income-based assistance.

One of the best ways to get a student loan is through the Sallie Mae corporation. Sallie Mae is a publicly traded US corporation that provides loans for students who are attending degree-granting institutions. While Sallie Mae is a private company, they can often be one of the most affordable choices when receiving student loans.

There are also many private banks and lending companies that will provide loans to students. However, it’s important to understand the repayment terms before signing up for a loan. Some banks may have manipulative repayment plans or strategies.

Understanding Grants and Scholarships

There are many grants and scholarships available to students attending college. For example, Pell Grants provide free financial assistance to students who can’t afford the cost of college. While Pell Grants are contingent on an individual’s income, there are a variety of scholarships that are accessible to people of all incomes and backgrounds.

Scholarships are available from a variety of public and private organizations. Companies like Walmart, Target Corporation, and McDonalds routinely provide scholarships for students that apply. In addition, many colleges and universities provide scholarships for students entering a variety of degree programs and majors.

Understanding the Risks of Loans

While student loans can be an excellent way to manage the cost of a college education, it’s important to have a realistic expectation of one’s income after graduation. Many degrees programs offer limited career potential for graduates.

For example, a degree in English or philosophy may be fun, but it won’t make one competitive in the workplace. In some cases, students with a debt and a hard-to-market degree may spend decades in debt to the government. Since an individual can’t default on his or her student loans, it’s important to make sure one is in a degree program that justifies the cost.

There are several degree programs that can ensure one receives an excellent salary after graduating. While they can be hard, a degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) can be an excellent choice for many young adults. Starting salaries for some engineering positions can be in the six figure range.

In addition, unemployment for graduates with a STEM degree is extremely low. Competent engineers and other science professionals usually do not have any problem finding work.

While student loans can be a great choice for many people, it’s important to choose a degree program that can justify the cost.

Brenda Cason is a freelance blogger who writes advice for college students. If you are still trying to find a major or are looking to return to school, Brenda recommends checking out an urban planning program for a fun and exciting career.