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Our View: Have a plan for college

Published: Friday, Feb. 21, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

College is expensive.

This isn’t new. This isn’t groundbreaking.

It is something that affects a lot of people.

The solution isn’t simple, but having a plan is essential to prevent student loans from owning your life.

The average Illinois student who attends a four-year college will leave school with about $28,000 in debt. Around 64 percent of Illinois college graduates have student loan debt.

The key is keeping that number at a manageable level.

There are a few ways to do that. The first is pretty obvious; get a scholarship. If you have the right grades, academic acumen or if you apply for enough of the plethora of scholarships out there, it can make a real dent in the cost of school.

It’s also best to have a plan for what you want to do and go to the best, most cost-effective school for the job you desire. Seek out advice from people in the field before you get too deep into the process. Because college is really about preparing yourself for the job you want after graduation.

Graduation, however, is not a job guarantee. More and more, students are graduating and not finding jobs in their field. Jobs are increasingly competitive. So having a plan and getting work experience in your desired field as early as possible can be a huge advantage in the application process.

For parents, planning ahead and saving whenever possible is key. Every cent you save now will save your child multiples of that amount later in life by avoiding the interest payments on those loans.

College can be fun. It should be fun. But it’s also important to keep in mind that the real purpose is to get you closer to the job you desire.

If not, you could be paying for that fun the rest of your life.

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