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With all the demand on parents’ resources today, it’s getting tougher to save for college. That’s why all parents should also have plan for paying for it.
As the cost of a college education continues to increase, parents are feeling the financial pressure of having to cover college expenses while trying to stay on track to retirement. If you’re still three or four years out from the day your child leaves for college, there’s no reason to panic. You still have time to save, which is important, because every dollar you can save for college expenses can save you a few dollars in student loan interest. That’s also plenty of time to begin working on a plan to pay for college with any number of resources that are available to you.
Between financial aid and grants, scholarship funds, and work-study programs, you could cover a substantial portion of college costs. You just need to begin researching these programs as early as possible, so you’ll have time to make them work for you.
Many parents don’t plan on using financial aid resources because they don’t think they will qualify for them. What you may not know is that financial aid covers a fairly wide range of families across the economic strata. It may not cover a large portion of your costs, but if the money is there, it would be important to know how to access it. Grants are available through federal and state organizations as well as through the colleges themselves. Once you are able to narrow down the choice of colleges, you can go online to research the financial aid and grant opportunities for each school.
In determining financial aid eligibility, the providers consider the financial position of the student. That’s why it would be important to keep financial assets out of the student’s name. The parents’ financial position is also considered to determine the amount of the family contribution. Financial aid eligibility formulas and the application process can be somewhat confusing, so it might make sense to meet with a specialist at the college who can help you navigate the process. But, you shouldn’t wait too long. Applications for financial aid for your student’s first fall semester of college need to be submitted and approved during the first quarter of the year.
You might be surprised to learn how many scholarship opportunities exist for your student. If your student is not fortunate to earn a full academic or athletic scholarship (and most aren’t), there may be dozens of the smaller scholarships available. You just need to know where to look. Many of these scholarships might not exceed $500 or $1,000, but they can add up if you manage to get a few of them.
You can start your search at SallieMae.com, which has a large database of available scholarships. After you complete a questionnaire, its service will direct you to dozens of potential sources. You can find other potential sources available in your community, through fraternal organizations, community service organizations and employers. Your student’s high school counselor can also be a valuable resource in locating scholarship opportunities. You should begin your search for scholarship opportunities by the time your student is a sophomore in high school.
Many colleges include a work-study program as part of their financial aid program. A certain number of campus jobs are set aside for eligible students who can then earn an hourly wage of financial credits that can be applied toward school expenses. You can indicate your interest in a work-study job on your application for financial aid. But, these jobs are limited, which is why it’s important to file your financial aid application as early as possible.
Tuition Payment Plans
If cash flow ever becomes a problem, you could always consider a tuition payment plan. Most colleges offer some form of payment plan which can extend for a semester, or for a year or more. Some parents find it easier to handle the big cost of tuition in smaller bites. Payment plans are typically set up at the time the student registers for classes.
Paying for college costs can amount to one of the biggest expenditures parents will have, behind the cost of retirement, and right around the cost of house in some cases. So, it would make sense to have a strategy on top of your savings strategy that could alleviate whatever financial pressure may come. There is a lot of money available for the taking. It’s legitimate, and it’s free.