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Posted: 1:25 p.m. Monday, July 30, 2012

Know the right way to borrow for college



By Clark Howard


I have a few simple rules when it comes to paying for college:

  • Only borrow what you can borrow under the federal student loan program. Avoid private loans at all costs.
  • Never take out more in loans than your likely first years earnings on the job that degree will get you.
  • Start your degree out at a community college and then transfer to a "name school" where you plan to get your degree.


The College Board reports private loans are down to just 8% of borrowing for college in the most recent years for which stats are available. That's a big drop from past levels.

Private loans are awful. Be aware and stay away. Private student loan outfits have special rights under the law to eat you up if you default. You won't believe how abusive a bank can be that issues private student loan to you. And most private student loans carry high variable interest rates.

What can you do if you have your heart set on a particular private school that's very expensive? If you don't have the resources and the only alternative is borrowing, I prefer that you look at working while in school to defray expenses. That's what I did. Go to a less expensive school at first and then transfer to your dream school as an upperclassman.

There are many alternatives to putting yourself in debt that may hang over you for rest of your life!