If you have a college-bound high-schooler in your household, you know it’s winding down to decision time. How will the choice of college or university impact the budget – yours and/or theirs?
Where will they go, an in-state public university for $8,893? That’s the average price per academic year in 2013-14, according to the College Board. A public university in another state comes in at $22,203. Add nearly $8,000 more for a private four-year institution. Junior colleges average less than $3,000.
Of course, this decision comes down to more than money. Where they’re accepted, career ambitions, the right fit, etc., are all important factors. Cost shouldn’t be the only one. There are ways to minimize the dent to your savings or the debt you or your child takes on.
Rule No. 1:
Understand the full price, not just tuition, but also room and board, food, and everything else. This goes for students who are putting themselves through school, and especially those for whom parents are footing the bill.
Rule No. 2:
Know what’s possible. I was able to pay my own way through a private university for about the same price as in-state tuition. I had the “luxury” of working in the admissions department, and I was lucky enough to earn several scholarships.
There is more scholarship money out there than most people realize, and you don’t have to be a rock-star student to get it.https://www.scholarships.com/financial-aid/college-scholarships/scholarships-by-state/missouri-scholarships/
With a combination of public and private scholarships, government grants and student loans, almost any qualified student can finance a college education. It pays to apply for as many as you can. There is no such thing as too many!
If you know financial assistance will be required, now is the time to explore the options. First, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA, https://fafsa.ed.gov/) form early. Then talk to financial aid officers at the schools you are pursuing and ask them for an estimated “Expected Family Contribution” (http://www.finaid.org/calculators/finaidestimate.phtml), the estimate of parents' and/or a student's ability to contribute.
Rule No. 3:
Don’t overlook community colleges, especially if you’re pursuing a degree from an in-state university. Knocking out two years of requisite courses at less than half the price makes great sense, but you’ll want to make sure those credits will transfer to the four-year school. Some universities have relationships with their instate community colleges that map out an exact path.
The bottom line is, there are more options for higher education than ever. Do your research and ask the right questions on those college tours. The price of a college degree continues to rise. But so does the number of ways you can make it affordable.
Kat's Money Corner is posted on Dollars Sense every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little one, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, click http://twitter.com/savinmavens.