10 Ways To Cut College Costs
Are you are determined to provide your child with a college education but not sure how you will survive the anxiety over how to pay for it all? You are not alone. Many families are facing the same issues as they shop around for schools or get ready to send their children off.
Whatever stage you are in towards the goal of a college degree, there are ways to keep expenses down. If you are flexible there are approaches to a college degree that can help you get the most out of your money.
AP High School Classes – By taking Advanced Placement classes in high school, and doing well on the exam, your child can actually earn credits towards college classes. Some students are able to cut a whole semester out of college by taking advantage of free high school classes.
Start at a Two-Year School – Starting a college education at a two-year school is a great way to keep moving forward academically while saving a good deal of money. Tuition is generally significantly cheaper at a two-year college and if your child can commute, you could save even more in on-campus costs such as room and board. Just be sure that the classes your child will be taking are fully transferrable to a reputable four-year school once your child receives an associates degree. Starting at a two-year school should have no effect on your child’s future as a diploma only lists the institution graduated from, not where your child started.
Take Advantage of Tax Credits – If you are already paying tuition, find out if you can take advantage of two tax credits offered by the federal government. If you qualify for either the American Opportunity Tax Credit or the Lifetime Learning Credit you could reap the benefit of a dollar for dollar decrease off of your tax liability. Some states also offer tax breaks for some college savings accounts.
Scholarships – There are more scholarships available than ever before. With a little research students and their families should be able to find at least some scholarship money towards tuition. Generally however, you must hunt down free money; it will not come to you. Some popular targets for scholarship money include religion, community service, ethnicity and of course athletics. If your child is involved in any of these areas, there may be money waiting for you to find it.
Books and Supplies – There are many online marketplaces for used books. Be sure to try and buy early as prices will go up the closer it gets to the school year. Check the school bookstore also as most schools run a book buy-back program and then resell the books for less than retail. Buy supplies such as paper, pens and notebooks at warehouse stores or discount stores such as Walmart. Always use a coupon to save even more. Save1.com offers discounts on office and school supplies and at the same time helps to provide a meal to a hungry child.
Dorm Room Setup – In the early stages of planning for college many families forget to add in the costs of outfitting a dorm room for their child. If there will be roommates, some costs will be shared. Perhaps one roommate can bring a microwave and the other a stereo. A TV should not be a necessity as most dorms provide a community TV. Try Craigslist or the local newspaper for bargains on new or used couches or chairs. Shop discount stores for bedding and bath supplies. You may even have your child contribute to their dorm room with money from their summer job.
Day-to-Day Living – Make sure your child is on a budget and if they are not responsible with money, do not hand over the credit card. Before school starts sit down and come up with reasonable figures for food, gas or transportation, personal items and entertainment. It’s not a bad thing to teach your child about spending money wisely, especially if it is not their own. Keep an eye on their bank account to be sure they are not being charged fees and try to discuss any overages in a calm manner. Agree to review the budget and make adjustments periodically to avoid unexpected problems.
Extra-Curriculars – If your child joins a sports team or a special interest club, there will be extra costs associated with membership. Beyond membership dues there may charges for equipment, transportation or special activities. Be sure your child knows ahead of time what sort of costs they are getting into. If you must cover extras, try to find used sports equipment or see if it is ok to forgo the spring break trip to Spain with the Spanish Club.
Graduate On Time – It is well known that a large percentage of students do not finish their degree requirements in four years. Sometimes this is their own doing however, often the schools scheduling is to blame. Classes that are not offered every semester may be hard to take when needed. Be sure to sit with your child and a counselor to make a plan for graduation in four years so that you do not have to fund an extra semester or two.
Colleges and universities have continued to raise the basic college costs for tuition, sometimes at an alarming rate. Many families are scared by the figures they see and are unsure of how they will be able to provide this continued education for their children.
In addition, the myriad of extra costs associated with attending colleges that fall beyond the basic tuition, room and board are also on the rise. This is one reason why a number of parents are now encouraging their children to pursue an online education. Online courses have improved greatly in quality in the last few years, as it is now possible to earn the exact same education that you would on a campus. Your child can even earn an advanced degree, such as the M.S. Ed. in Special Education online, which will prepare the child for the licensure exam that is required to get started in this career. While taking these courses, your child can live at home and even get a job, cutting down on your financial obligations in the process. The most important step parents can take is to be aware of the true cost of sending their child to college. By having a comprehensive idea of the money that will be needed, parents can make adjustments to their own savings and budgeting as the day draws near.
About the Author: Wendy Brunner is a freelance writer focusing on articles and blog posts on a variety of topics including travel, internet marketing, personal and professional development. When not beachside in Plum Island, Mass. or at home in the Sonoran desert, she can be found somewhere in the world. You can follow her on Google+.