President Barack Obama recently unveiled a new plan to help people struggling to repay college loans that can climb into the six figures and keep young graduates burdened for decades. But an important lesson is for students to learn to avoid debt — or at least keep it to a manageable level. One of the key strategies is not to automatically take the loans that are offered to you as part of your financial aid. Often you can live on less, and you don't want to be tempted to live on borrowed money. Work on a budget before you agree to the loans. Here are some additional tips to help avoid college debt:
Go to community college for at least the first two years. You'll save thousands a year in tuition and fees.
Live at home. Commute or look for schools that have degrees you can earn online while living at home.
Prepare your own meals or at least some of them if you do go away to college and live on campus. Sign up for a meal plan that will let you, for example, have breakfast in your room. See if it is cheaper to live off campus.
Scout for textbooks' bargain basement prices. You can save hundreds of dollars by going to such websites as cheapesttextbooks.com and textbooksearch.com.
Work part time during the school year and full time in the summer to help pay for living expenses instead of taking loans to buy food, clothes, books and supplies.
Resist taking out student loans to buy expensive computer equipment or to go on foreign exchange programs. If you don't have the money, you can't afford it.
Earn college credit by taking Advanced Placement courses in high school or passing CLEP exams at your future college. You can earn credit for more than 30 college classes, from American lit to calculus. That could save you a year's college expenses. Go to collegeboard.org and clep.collegeboard.org for more information.