September is the time of year that our kids pack the U-Haul and head to college. And while they’re excited about a brand-new semester, it can be frightening to see the cost – and rising college debt – that comes with the college experience. What can our college students do to ease the price tag?
Last school year, in-state tuition at a public university averaged $9,970 for residents and $34,740 at a private college, according to data from the College Board. Some private colleges come in at over $75,000 a year. (And yes, private college might not be worth that extra money.)
Before you freak out, check out these ideas for how your student can increase their income, boost their financial aid and cut expenses.
Reduce Student Loans
Borrowing $2,500 less in student loans each year equates to $10,000 over four years. If instead you take out an extra $10,000 in federal government-backed Stafford loans at, say, a fixed 6.8% interest, you pay $115 a month for the next 10 years. That $10,000 ends up costing you $13,812 – a big burden even with repayment plans.
Avoid taking out more student loans than you need to cover the cost of college, even if you’re eligible. Make sure you take out the subsidized loans before the unsubsidized loans. The subsidized loans do not incur interest while you are still in school. Unsubsidized loans do. Additionally, you should avoid private student loans at all costs. They typically are not as flexible as federal loans.
The class of 2018 graduated with the most student debt ever, an average of $38,390, according to the Wall Street Journal. If your child is in college now, you probably don’t want their graduating class to make similar headlines in the future. What are the options?
Yes, that means extra work between courses, research papers, and case studies. The rewards, though, are well worth the effort.
Your child doesn’t need a full-time job along with a full course load. They can look into part-time jobs that offer flexible schedules, so they rack up paid hours around classes. If working for someone else doesn’t appeal to them, they can create their own work with a side job.
Not only will your child earn cash to help with college expenses, but they’ll also earn valuable experience to put them ahead of the pack when starting a career after graduation.
Reapply for Scholarships and Grants
If you were denied before, try again. A lot can change in a semester.
If your child brought up their grades, for instance, they might now qualify for tuition help that they applied for before but missed. Check with your department chair for scholarships for upperclassman in your child’s major.
Did your child lose their scholarship? They should focus on studies to boost grade point average again.
Should your child buy a car? Get an expensive nice apartment a few miles from campus? Take a vacation between semesters?
Teach your child to live within their means and use student loans exclusively for college expenses. Frugal living means seeking inexpensive alternatives instead of automatically springing for the most expensive option. Instead of trying to live alone in a two-bedroom apartment off-campus, for example, encourage roommates (or even live at home).
Use School Facilities and Discounts
Most colleges have great amenities that students often ignore. Many services they need may be a 10-minute walk from their living space. And, they already pay for these services with tuition.
If there’s a gym on campus, why pay for a membership elsewhere? If their laptop stops working, contact the campus information technology department for a possible cheap repair. Not feeling so great? Head to the school health-care center.
Don’t forget that a college ID can score discounts to events both on and off campus. This can include plays, museums, movies and even train passes.
Four courses (12 credit hours) per semester won’t get your student walking across that stage, diploma in hand, in four years. And the more semesters they stick around, the more everyone pays: even if tuition is fixed, per-semester fees often go up steadily.
Don’t forget about opportunity costs, either: the longer your child stays in school, the longer before they start their career and secure a salary, delaying future earnings potential.
Gently push your child to do what they need to do to graduate in four years – that includes having them stop changing majors – and, if possible, take summer classes and use advanced placement credits from high school to finish in three years.
It takes a lot for any college student to hold a side job or get through school as fast as possible. But if your student does the hard work now, their future financial self will thank you for the lack of debt and more manageable cost of college.
Contact us if you’d like to discuss planning for college.