Financing higher education has never been easy, but for some students, it’s more difficult than others. In addition, student loan debt is becoming an increasingly big problem for U.S. students. Scholarships can be a great benefit to those funding their education, but because they are so time-consuming, the process of applying can be prohibitive, especially for students that are already working part- or full-time to pay for school.

Student loan debt increases

A report from National Consumer Law Center found that more than 39 million people in the U.S. have some amount of debt from student loans, amounting to $1 trillion. In addition, $38 billion in direct loans are in default. According to the report, the U.S. Department of Education refers defaulted debts to private collection agencies, which frequently engage in consumer abuses, for instance, failing to adequately communicate with students regarding their options and help them resolve their debt. Many also do not comply with the borrower rights under the Higher Education Act. One company has consistently been sued by federal and state regulators but has been given a high rating from the DOE. The report recommended eliminating the use of private collection agencies and including more counseling.

While student debt is increasingly common, it is obviously best to avoid it when possible, if only to prevent defaulting on loans. Still, for most students, it’s simply not an option to fund college without borrowing, but scholarships can help ease the burden.

The difficulties of scholarship applications

An article in The New York Times highlighted the story of Tenille Warren, a 38-year-old, first-time college student at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Warren had actually earned a full ride to school through the “I Have a Dream” Foundation’s program, but she put off school to take care of her mother and the free tuition expired. She managed to get back on track with a lot of hard work, but this time she had to take out loans to cover tuition. Her days are now packed with coursework and scholarship applications.

“There have been times when I feel I can’t do this,” she said. “I don’t want the pressure. I want relief. But heeding that would be a bad decision,” she told the Times.

Many students, young and old, can likely relate to Warren’s situation. The scholarships are vital to continue on, but it can be hard to fit them into a schedule that’s already demanding.

While colleges and universities can’t always prevent students from going into debt, they can make scholarship programs more accessible. Cloud-based scholarship management platforms can enable students to more quickly and efficiently apply for multiple scholarships. A platform like CommunityForce’s also allows students to search for more scholarships they are qualified for.

Students should be able to come out of college knowing they did everything they could to prevent the burden of debt and not regretting they didn’t spend more time looking for extra funding. This can be accomplished with more user-friendly, scholarship management software.