In 2021, student loan debt in the US adds up to over $1.5 trillion. This is certainly a lot of money, and has led many politicians to debate the student loan debt crisis. But while you will find many students who will pay back student loans for the next three decades, what you do with this information matters.

In fact, if you are looking to cut costs as a student so as to lower your loan amount, you are probably fighting a losing battle. The reality is that small cost cutting measures will not make a significant difference to how long you will be paying back your debts.

Have you considered doing the following to cut costs? Here’s why you should think again.

Fewer courses

Some students will choose their degree based on price. They may take as few courses as possible, and maybe decide against pursuing post-graduate degrees. However, the rationale behind this is shaky at best.

The ease with which you repay debt after you leave college will have a lot to do with how much you are earning. Limiting your options in order to decrease your ultimate debt may serve the opposite purpose. Instead of paying back more debt without as much trouble, you may end up struggling to pay the minimum based on a low-paying job.

There is also the fact that you may well continue paying back your loans for the next two or three decades if you are not a high earner. This is because you can apply for income-driven repayment (IDR) plans which stretch your repayment term according to how much you are earning. If you are still repaying your debts at the end of this plan, you may be able to apply for student loan forgiveness, and you won’t end up paying the money you saved on extra courses in any case.

Alternative accommodation

Another way you may have considered cutting student loans is by finding alternative accommodation. However, if your university provides accommodation, you should strongly consider taking that option.

Finding alternative accommodation means stepping into the rental market. In some areas, rent is not too expensive – for working people. As a student, you may struggle to pay even if you share a flat.

You also have to consider related expenses like renters insurance. This is insurance that covers your possessions when you are a tenant. In the US, you can get renters insurance from a company like Lemonade for as little as  $5 a month.

You’ll also have to find and pay for transport, an internet plan, and water and electricity. By paying for student accommodation via your student loan, you save yourself the monthly expenses.

Maintenance costs

What about the costs of living that every student has? These include food, books, and other day-to-day needs. You can pay these costs out of pocket if you are earning money, but you might struggle to make ends meet.

Choosing to pay for maintenance costs out of pocket might save you repayments in the future, but they won’t be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. They won’t bulk up your student loans so much that it makes a material difference in your post-college life.

As mentioned, these costs are likely to be limited if you are living in your college residence. That is often a better way to limit future debt than trying to cut down the ultimate value of your student loan.

Student loan debt

We hear a lot about student loan debt and the associated crisis. It is a topic that will dominate political discourse for decades, but is unlikely to change in the near future.

For many students, student loan debt will be a reality for at least the next ten years. It is a monthly expense to get used to, but if you are not able to become a high earner, your repayments will be limited to what you have available. Trying to cut your debt down by compromising your college experience is unlikely to help, and will only hinder you.