Graduation season means excitement, a new start, and for many, a stark reminder of how expensive college tuition has become. Outstanding student loan debt has now reached $1.6 trillion dollars, according to 2020 estimates from the Federal Reserve.
Paying for college is often a significant worry and investment for parents and students who are preparing for higher education. But there are ways to help reduce the amount a family or student must borrow to fund college dreams, if they start early.
For families who didn’t start a college fund while their children were small, it’s never too late to reduce costs even into their senior year. The key is to think creatively – whether it’s earning college credits in high school, using financial tools that allow for cash savings, or researching scholarship options. Families don’t have to mortgage their own financial future or saddle their children with debt that could keep him or her from reaching their dreams.
Four Ways to Beat College Debt
1. Earn college credit in high school and keep up those grades. Many high schools offer students the opportunity to earn dual high school and college credit before graduation through advanced placement (AP) courses and local community colleges. You can learn more about AP programs online. These courses are challenging, and a strong GPA can help eligibility both while in high school and when applying to institutions.
2. Consider a community college. Average annual 2-year community college tuition and fees are nearly a third of the cost compared to public 4-year colleges and universities. Some also offer tuition breaks for excellent GPA’s. According to the American Association of Community Colleges, the average yearly cost of tuition and fees for community college students in the U.S. is $3,703 compared to an average cost of $10,440 at four-year institutions. Just make sure the class credits are transferable if your plans are to complete a bachelor’s degree elsewhere.
3. Learn about college tuition loans and grants. Research and educate yourself on both federal and private loans, as well as different types of grants available to incoming students. Many institutions will require that parents fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form to help them determine financial packages based on the family’s income. However, for many programs, awards are also based on such criteria as grades, extra-curricular involvement, or an area of study such as scholarships for students pursuing degrees in education, music, business, or engineering, to name a few.
4. Research scholarships early. Scholarships are available for traditional and non-traditional students, but don’t wait until senior year to research. Some require organizational membership, volunteer hours or criteria that may take time for the student to become eligible. Many local service clubs, community foundations, and even financial aid packages are offered for incoming students at many educational institutions. Once your student lands on their top school choices, ask about financial aid and scholarship packages.
Bottom line: don’t be discouraged by rising college costs. There are ways to save if you plan ahead.
This article is for informational purposes only, you should not construe any information provided as legal, tax, investment, or financial advice. No reader should make any investment decision without first consulting his or her own financial advisor and conducting his or her own research and due diligence.
TRN00007; Rev. 6-2020