Pay for education without student loan debt
With college costs skyrocketing, many parents feel their college savings plan is on a treadmill and losing ground. Don’t get discouraged. Every dollar you save and pay upfront for tuition and expenses is $2 saved in student loan costs, so it’s no time to slow down your savings. One thing you can do to relieve a little bit of the pressure is to look ahead at options for paying for college expenses.
When you’re approaching the three-year mark before your child enters college, it’s time to put a college payment plan into place. Here we review some key tactics to consider while you continue to save for college.
Many parents insist they don’t want to rely on financial aid because it may not be available to them. The reality is that more than 60% of today’s college students rely heavily on financial aid. You don’t have to make it the cornerstone of your college funding plan, but you should know what’s available and the steps to take to obtain it. Between state, federal and private grants, most students can qualify for funding to cover as much as 50% of their college expenses — and sometimes more — with financial aid through the college.
Financial aid eligibility is primarily based on your child’s financial position, including their assets and income, to determine the need. Some private funding sources will also look at the parents’ assets, but they exclude retirement accounts. (Which is another good reason to focus on your retirement savings).
There are more scholarships out there than you think. While fewer kids can qualify for the full tuition scholarships, there are lots of smaller scholarships to be had, and they can add up quickly. (If your child is an exceptional student, don’t rule out the possibility of a full tuition scholarship.) Start your scholarship search early, when your child is a freshman in high school.
You can start your search online with the Sallie Mae corporation, which provides information and services to match prospective college students with potential scholarships. Your community may also be rich in possible grants and scholarships through associations, employers and community organizations. Check with your child’s high school counselor, who may be wired into available local scholarships.
Most colleges offer work/study employment programs as part of their financial aid program. Colleges set aside a number of campus jobs that pay a wage and generate financial credits. These jobs are usually limited and available based on financial need.
One type of work/study job is a dorm room supervisor, in which an upper-class student lives onsite in a dorm for lower-class students to monitor and supervise their activities. Compensation is free room and board, which can sometimes amount to at least a third of college costs.
Where there are no work/study opportunities, the local community is always a source of jobs for college students. Businesses in a college town rely heavily on college students to fill their part-time positions.
Look into a payment plan. Check with the colleges you’re considering to see if they offer a monthly payment plan. This would allow you to maintain control of your funds and have them continue to earn interest. If you’re paying a portion of the costs from current cash flow, it can help with budgeting.
If you’ve been saving for your children’s college education but still expect to fall short, you don’t necessarily have to rely on student loans to fill the gap. If you’re within a few years of sending your children away to school, you still have time to develop a plan for paying for it with these available resources.
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