You know that movie, Step Brothers, where the parents can’t seem to get their grown sons out of the nest? They even build bunk beds – as two middle-aged men. Today, that isn’t too far from the truth.

5 steps to avoid student loan debt

Okay, maybe I am being a little extreme but many young adults are moving back in with their parents according tothe Pew Research Center. Pew researchers found that 32% of 18-to-34-year-olds live with their parents which is the highest rate since 1940, right after the Great Depression.

What is causing this?

Largely student loans.

And if you are excited about them moving back in, this isn’t the only impact of student loan debt. Graduates are buying homes much later, starting families later, and saving less for retirement than previous generations. According to Nerd Wallet, it is now estimated that today’s graduates won’t be able to retire until they are 75 years old, up 13 years from the current average of 62 years old.

So how can we help today’s generation reduce or eliminate student loan debt from their future before they even get sucked into it?

Here are 5 steps to help your child avoid student loan debt

  1. Weigh the options

While supporting your child to go to the “school of their dreams,” I am sure their dream doesn’t entail them being buried in debt for decades and having to retire in their 70s. Unless career opportunities will be better upon graduating from that school, it is typically not worth the extra buck. This is a serious discussion to have with children as they often don’t genuinely understand the consequences of student loan debt. I highly recommend utilizing a student debt calculator to show them what their loan payments would be. Want to take it a step further? Look up the average starting salary in the career of their choice and calculate their disposable income (after living expenses and the loan payment.) This will most likely open their eyes!

  1. Consider trade schools

When I worked in a turbine plant, we couldn’t find good welders to save our lives. Those we did find were making tens of thousands of dollars more than me, even though I had that fancy diploma. Why? Because there is a major shortage in skilled trades. Plumbers, HVAC technicians, electricians, contractors – they are all making fantastic money right now because there aren’t enough of them. If your child does not want to go to college, perhaps this is the path for them. They are highly needed fields that pay well and completely eliminate student loan debt. Down the road, they could even start their own business in the field, making well into the 6-figure mark!

  1. Apply for scholarships and other financial aid

There are billions of dollars in scholarships and financial aid out there. The problem is that many students don’t apply for it – or, if they do, they don’t know what they are doing. There are many different types including merit aid, grants, third-party scholarships, work-study and more. If you want to learn more about financial aid and how to find scholarships, join this free webinar on the “6 Steps to Quickly Secure Scholarships for College.” The important thing to know is that the money is out there and that it can be used for tuition, books, fees, a laptop and more.

  1. Reduce overall costs for college

According to, the average cost of college is over $24,000 per year at public schools. Believe it or not, room and board are a larger portion of this than tuition and fees! There are many ways to reduce the total cost of college, first and foremost is by cutting room and board as much as possible. From reducing living expenses to buying used books and negotiating tuition, there are plenty of opportunities. Sure, this may cut back a little from the “college experience” but post-graduates will be grateful when they saved tens of thousands on their student loans.

  1. Utilize part-time jobs to help cover the costs (or get college paid for)

While it is near impossible to work and pay for college completely these days, students can work part-time to pay for living expenses. If possible, money for living expenses should not be borrowed. If your child can’t handle a part-time job during the semester, holiday breaks are a great time to put some extra jingle in their pocket. Also, another option is to work for a company who contributes towards their education. One example is Starbucks who offers free tuition under its College Achievement Plan. And they are not the only company who does this!

There are lots of ways to cut back on the amount your child has to borrow. While it may require some tough decisions, they will be extremely grateful when they don’t have student loans like everyone else. Believe me.

About the Author: Jocelyn Paonita is the founder ofThe Scholarship System, a blog and online course that helps families pay for college with scholarships and avoid student loan debt. Their students have secured over $624,300 in scholarships so far. Follow The Scholarship System on Twitter & Facebook or grab their Free Resource Guide: 3 Steps to Writing a Scholarship-Winning Essay.