A free tool for calculating an affordable future

Are You A SMART Borrower?

How it Works

How it Works

Our tool provides projections based on YOUR CHOICES to see if you are a SMART borrower.
Available Features

Available Features

This tool has key features to help you make SMART DECISIONS when planning for college.
The 5 Tips for SMART Borrowing

The 5 Tips for SMART Borrowing

Be PREPARED to make SMART borrowing decisions by following these tips.

NOTE: The values shown in this tool are only estimates. They are based on national averages and the information you enter.

Further research is recommended to determine major/degree availability and years required for your selected college.


A free tool for calculating an affordable future

Breakdown #{1}

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Knowing your career choice before you enroll in college will save you time and money down the road.

Changing majors during college could take you longer to graduate, which may increase your educational expenses. That's why it's smart to have a career in mind before you pick a college. But if you aren't sure, don't worry; we can help you explore a career that may be a good fit.
Do you know your career choice?

Select your career:

Step 1

Enter your career of interest below:

Invalid Career Choice.

Can't decide?

Step 2

Continue to pick your career location.

Need help locating your career field? MySmartBorrowing can help!

Choose both a cateogry and career below:

Step 1

Choose a career category:

Step 2

Select your career:

Invalid Career Choice.

Can't decide?

Step 3

Continue to pick your career location.

Your location affects how much money you make and how much money you spend.

How much money you make and monthly expenses (cost of living) vary across the country, so keep this in mind as you explore your options. It's often best to pick a location that has plenty of job opportunities in your chosen career.

Step 1

Choose a state to live and work in:

Can't decide?

Step 2

Pick an area to live:

There are no metropolitan areas available for your selected state. Proceed to step 3.

Step 3

Continue to find out how much money you could make in your selected career.

Take a wild guess: How much money do you think you will make your 1st year out of college?

Use the available starting salaries listed below to pick the salary that you would expect to make your FIRST year out of college. Take a wild guess… you may be closer than you think!

Step 1

Your salary guess is:

Can't decide?

Step 2

Continue to view your career results.

Career Results

Next Step:

{Web Developers}


Starting Salary

Smart Borrowing is sticking to your borrowing limit!

Follow the salary rule of thumb—try not to borrow more for your education than you intend to make in your first year out of college.

National Career Growth for 2012-2022

{8.2}% Job Growth
{11} Job Openings

Do you know about Public Service Loan Forgiveness?

The program was established to encourage individuals to enter and remain in public service jobs. The program allows eligible borrowers to cancel the remaining balance of their Direct Loans after serving full time at a public service organization for at least 10 years while making 120 qualifying monthly payments.

Borrowing Limit:

Is equal to your starting salary

Now that you have your borrowing limit, edit your college choice to find out how much college could cost.

Next Step:

Not sure where you want to go to college?

Pick a college that makes sense for your career and budget. The popular college isn't always the smartest choice.

Choosing the right college can play a huge part in how much you pay back after you graduate. Even though you have your heart set on a certain college, in the long run, that college might not make good financial sense. Shop around to find a college that fits your financial situation.
Do you know your college choice?

Select your college:

Step 1

Enter your college of interest below:

Invalid College Choice.

Can't decide?

Step 2

Continue to view your college costs.

Cant find your college? MySmartBorrowing can help!

Narrow down your college options:

Step 1

Choose a college state:

Step 2

Select your school type:

4 Year 2 Year Other
Public Public Less than 2 years
Private Private
Invalid College Choice.

Can't decide?

Step 3

Continue to view your college costs.

Take a wild guess: How much money would you GUESS that 4 years at your selected college could cost?

Take a guess to see how much it will cost you to earn your degree.

Step 1

Your college cost guess is:

Can't decide?

Step 2

Continue to view your college results.

College Results

Next Step:



College Net Cost for {4} Years

What is College Net Cost?

Net cost is the total cost of attendance including required fees, books, supplies, and room & board minus the average amount of federal, state/local government, or institutional grant or scholarship aid.

To view the approximate net cost of the college you selected, visit their website and use their Net Price Calculator.

Do you know about The Hidden Truths of Student Loans?

  • Your college might approve more loan funds than you actually need. So, only borrow what is necessary.
  • If you withdraw from college, you still have to pay back your loan.
  • If you can't find a job, you are still responsible for paying back your loan.
  • The amount you have to pay back can be more than what you originally borrowed because of accrued interest. See how interest affects your payments.
  • If you declare bankruptcy, your loans most likely won't "go away."

College Net Cost:

For {4} years

You now know your college net cost! Find out how much you could reduce your college net costs by editing your family contribution.

Next Step:

Not sure about your family contribution?

Your Family Contribution = Simple Math!

There are multiple ways to pay for college. A smart approach is to put money away before you have to pay. The more money you have to put towards college, the less you will need to borrow when it's time to make that investment.

Step 1

Review the family contribution example below, then enter your contribution.

Family Contribution Example:

Saved money in a savings account:
Parent's loan for your education/Parent PLUS:
Saved money from a parents savings account:
Money earned while working in college:
Private grants and scholarships:
Family Contribution Total:
$10,800 (Example)

Step 2

Enter your family contribution for 4 years:

Can't decide?

Cost of College:
Student Loan Amount:

Step 3

Continue to view your family contribution results.

Contribution Results

Next Step:

Family Contribution Amount:

Family Contribution

Family Contribution =
  • Money in a savings account
  • Money from a parents savings account
  • Parent's loan for your education/Parent PLUS
  • Private grants and scholarships
  • Money earned while working in college
Simple Math Breakdown
Cost of College:
Student Loan Amount:

Do you know about Ways to Save and Reduce Costs?

  • Open a savings account
  • Get a part-time job and save at least HALF of every paycheck
  • Save money you receive as gifts
  • Take the bus or carpool to school to save on gas money
  • Ask yourself if you really need things before you buy them
  • See if you can take college classes while still in high school to save money on future tuition costs

Student Loan Amount:

Additional Information

Average Student Loan Amount for a {SCHOOL TYPE} School in {STATE}:

You now know your student loan amount! Check out how your previous choices could affect your overall student loan borrowing.

Are you a smart borrower? Find out now!

The Breakdown:

Understanding how your career, college and contribution affect your student loans.
Career Choice

When you choose your career, you aren't just figuring out your starting salary*, you are also determining your borrowing limit.

*Starting Salary: How much money you make your first year out of college.

Starting Salary:
(Borrowing Limit)
Don't borrow more than your starting salary!
College Choice

College costs can range anywhere from $6,000 a year to $60,000. When you pick your college, research is key. The more expensive the college is, the bigger the bill. And that doesn't always mean a better education for your desired career choice. So choose wisely.

*Approximate net cost is generated by subtracting the average amount of federal, state/local government, or institutional grant or scholarship aid from the total cost of attendance.

Approximate Net Cost:
(For {4} Years)
Family Contribution

If you are planning on going to college, saving money now to put towards your college costs could save you money down the road. There are plenty of ways you can contribute towards your educational costs. The best way is to save, save, save!

Family Contribution:
Amount Borrowed

Going to school costs money! If you don't have enough in contributions to cover the cost, then most likely you will need to take out federal loans (max. $31,000 for 4 years) and/or private education loans. What you don't want to do is over borrow.

It's simple; if your borrowing limit is less than your student loan debt then you will over borrow! To prevent over borrowing you should really reconsider your career, college choice, or family contribution amount.

The average amount borrowed for a {SCHOOL TYPE} School in {STATE} is ${AMT}

Student Debt Amount:
Subtract from Borrowing Limit (${AMT}).
Your Future Outlook

Your student loan debt can impact your financial future in a big way. If you are over borrowing you should consider the suggestions below to minimize how your student loan debt could negatively affect your financial future.

Congratulations, you are a smart borrower! The choices you made will allow you to have a successful financial future.

Congratulations! You are UNDER your borrowing limit by:
You are OVER your borrowing limit by:
Estimated Monthly Payment
(For 10 years at 6.8% interest)
How will this affect your future budget after college?
Budget Calculator

Adjust monthly expenses to improve your budget.

Monthly Income
Included Costs: Housing amount includes rent and utilities and is based on sharing the housing expenses with more than one person, such as a roommate.
Included Costs: Transportation amount includes car payment, repairs, gas, and insurance.
Included Costs: Food & Beverage amount includes groceries, dining out, etc.
Included Costs: Clothing amount includes clothes, laundry, and dry-cleaning.
Included Costs: Phone, TV & Internet amount includes the cost of your telephone services, cable, and internet bill per month.
Included Costs: Savings & Retirement amount includes the amount you put away each month for these accounts.
Included Costs: Entertainment amount includes admissions, hobbies, pet care, etc.
Included Costs: Healthcare amount includes health insurance, medical services, medication, and medical supplies.
Included Costs: Student Loan Payment is your interest and principal and is based on a 10-year Standard Repayment Schedule.
Included Costs: Payroll Deductions amount, which consists of about 25% of your income, includes social security deductions, taxes, etc.
Monthly Expenses
Left Over
You are over budget!
Contratulations! You are under budget!
If You are Over Borrowing, You Should:
To Keep You on the Right Track, You Should:
  • Set up a budget.
  • Pay your interest during school.
  • Open a savings account or continue to contribute towards an existing savings account.
  • Review additional scholarship opportunities.
What's Next?
  1. Copy and update this Breakdown
  2. Make any suggested changes.
  3. Compare your results.
Where are we getting our numbers?

Data Sources

Net Cost Data

Source: Data was extracted from the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Data includes Fall 2012 Institutional Characteristics and Student Financial Aid component data.

This data represents the total cost of attendance for in-state students. The cost of attendance for out-of-state students may be higher.

Average Loan Debt

Source: Peterson's Databases copyright 2014 Peterson's Nelnet, LLC All rights reserved.

Salary Information

Source: Data was extracted from the May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The data was released in March 2015.

Employment Projections by Occupation

Source: Employment Projections Program, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The data was released in December 2013.

Cost of Living

Source: Data was extracted from the 2012-13 Consumer Expenditure Survey, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The data was released in September 2014.

Online Resources

College Advice

Learn what you should do to get ready for college.

Career Information

Get helpful information about careers that interest you.

Budgeting and Personal Finance

Find a one-stop shop for you to manage your money and keep track of your spending.