As an assistant to three financial advisers in Lenox, MA, I often hear clients’ concerns.
A major concern today is how they can afford to send their kids to college.
With tuition rates rising much faster than real incomes, this is a legitimate question that needs to be addressed by every family.
My parents only paid for books and other minor education expenses, so I was left to foot most of the bill for my college education.
However, the ways I found to graduate with only $5,000 in student loans are ideas any family should take advantage of, whether the parents or the children will be the ones paying.
It’s Never too Early to Start Saving
Whether Mom and Dad are able to put aside a few dollars now and then when junior is a baby or if, like me, a student starts with babysitting jobs in high school, a chunk of change can be put aside.
By working in the summers and part time during the school year and while in community college, I was able to save $10,000 by the time I started my junior year ‘” and that was ten years ago.
Check Into Programs that Allow College Credits to be Earned in High School
While these programs may not be for everyone, a significant amount of time and money can be saved through programs such as the Running Start program, which I enrolled in.
Typically the student takes college classes while in high school, earning both college and high school credits at the same time. Not only can you graduate earlier, but best of all the state pays for it.
My first year of community college was entirely paid for while I was still in high school.
And for those concerned about missing out on school spirit events and senior prom, you aren’t required to attend full time so you can take some college courses while still taking classes at the local high school and staying involved in after-school activities.
Find Part-Time Jobs with Educational Benefits
While attending my second year of community college I worked part-time at Sears, a company that helps employees to pay for their first two years of college education, up to a certain limit.
Because community college is cheaper than a university, they paid for almost all of my second year. In the state of Massachusetts, many companies also offer scholarships to their employees.
Attend Community College
Everyone has to take those same pre-reqs, so even if you don’t go through Running Start or find a job that will pay for school, community college for those first two years is not only cheaper when it comes to tuition, but in most cases students can continue to live at home and commute, saving on living expenses.
This was a good option for me.
I felt I was still able to have that college dorm experience later, in my junior year.
Apply for Financial Aid
The bulk of my tuition costs occurred in my junior and senior years, and this is when I borrowed the $5,000. However that, with the $10,000 I had saved, was still only a fraction of my total cost.
By filing a FAFSA and researching every available grant and scholarship on the internet, aid is most likely available to help.
I was able to receive aid that I never had to repay, and of course there are athletic and academic scholarships as well as need-based aid at almost every institution, especially private schools.
In fact, if I hadn’t attended a pricier private school, I wouldn’t have needed a loan at all.
Finally, Keep Working!
I continued working throughout most of my junior and senior years. Not only did the extra money pay for school expenses and tuition, but I was able to work at a variety of jobs and experience potential future job settings.
It was at a work-study job one summer that I discovered I had a gift for working with children, so keep working!