A Dream in Reach?
A table that demonstrates the rising cost per credit of an education at Michigan State University recently prompted one of the university’s graduate students to write a post titled, “It’s impossible to work your way through college nowadays.” The student pointed out that even a few decades ago, it was doable for a college student to pay for school with good old-fashioned elbow grease. But for modern students, that isn’t even an option.
This prompts the question, is college even a realistic goal for most families without money seeping out of every pore? Happily, the answer is yes. It takes planning and some creative thinking, but students who have their hearts set on a college degree can achieve it.
The earlier you can start planning to send your kid to college, the better. You can start saving when your child is still in elementary school, or even before that. Here are a few long-term ways to prepare to help your kids afford college.
Savingforcollege.com defines a 529 plan as “an education savings plan operated by a state or educational institution designed to help families set aside funds for future college costs.” Most states offer 529 savings plans, and these plans will keep up with rising tuition costs. State rules regarding 529 plans vary, but in most cases you can use the savings at almost any school, even if it’s out of the state.
In addition to 529 savings plans, there are also 529 prepaid plans. The prepaid plans, mostly offered by colleges, are useful if your child wants to attend a specific school.
Work with your child to look into scholarship possibilities. There are a lot of myths surrounding scholarships that might discourage you. For example, many people think that scholarship awards are usually so small they aren’t worth the effort it takes to apply, or that only amazing students and athletes win scholarships. Neither of those things is true. There are tons of scholarships available to people of all backgrounds, and every dollar your child earns for school lightens the financial burden.
Your child can wait until his senior year in high school to start applying for scholarships, but urge him to start earlier. Junior year is the best time to start, and he can continue applying for scholarships through the first part of senior year.
Federal grants and financial aid are another avenue through which your child can get help paying for college. They’re usually need-based, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that your child won’t receive financial aid if your family has a good income. Most institutions award financial aid in the spring, so make sure your child applies well ahead of time if they plan on starting school in the fall.
Helping your child go from high school diploma to bachelor’s degree isn’t always a straightforward endeavor. Sometimes you need to get a little creative.
Some schools use a 568 protocol when determining how much aid to grant to students. This involves home equity. Forbes explains, “At these schools the home equity that goes into calculating your net worth is capped at 120% of your income.”
An example on Forbes.com illustrates how this loophole can benefit some families. A family with an annual income of $144,000 used an inheritance to pay off a $514,000 mortgage. Because it used that money to pay off its home and didn’t keep it in its bank account, the son qualified for more financial aid.
Pursuing a master’s degree in Europe can cost significantly less than doing the same thing in the United States. Hence, after your child has a bachelor’s degree in hand, he or she can think about going overseas to complete his or her education at a lower cost.
While this option still isn’t exactly cheap, it does offer students with a taste for adventure a good reason to spend some time abroad. Parents can use the money they save on tuition to help their child cover living expenses. You can quickly send the money to your child using a secure wire transfer service such as Ria Money Transfer.
Believe it or not, a good pep talk directed at your kid can save you some major bucks on college. While your student is in high school, encourage him or her to choose options that’ll get him or her ahead of the college game.
Advanced placement courses enable students to earn college credits for free while still in high school. The classes are more challenging than regular high school classes, but students can earn up to five college credits per class. When you think of that in terms of how much each college credit costs at a university, that can amount to substantial savings.
High school students in some states have the opportunity to start attending a community college while in high school. With programs like Running Start in Washington and Career and College Promise in North Carolina, the state covers tuition, so basically the only cost that families must cover is that of books. If your student works hard, he or she could receive his or her high school diploma and an associate degree at the same time. He or she could transfer to a university to finish earning his or her bachelor’s degree.
Admittedly, increasing college costs makes higher education a tougher endeavor for each successive generation. However, parents and their children can still make the dream happen when they plan ahead, work hard, and know about all the options that are open to them.