Using Student Loans, Scholarships And Grants To Pay For College
For most middle class parents it can be a case of sticker shock adding up all those cost to send a young adult to college. Between tuition, fees, room and board, the average yearly cost is ,127 at a four year public college and more than ,000 at a private university. It’s no wonder parents ask themselves each year if they can afford it.
The good news is that the answer is yes. With just a few simple moves families can save themselves thousands of dollars.
One thing parents should never underestimate is the power of saving. A 529 plan is one of the more popular saving plans. It basically offers parents a tax-advantage for saving for future college costs. It’s also known as a “qualified tuition plan.”
529 plans come in two varieties — college savings and prepaid tuition. College savings plans let parents use their plan funds for college expenses at any college. Prepaid tuition plans let parents lock-in future tuition at in-state public colleges at present prices.
All fifty states and the District of Columbia sponsor at least one type of 529 plan. In addition, a group of private colleges and universities sponsor a pre-paid tuition plan.
The Upromise website even puts an interesting take on saving by offering rewards to their customers for every day purchases.
When saving isn’t enough
If for whatever reason it’s too late to save or there isn’t enough savings, all hope is not lost.
According to a report from The College Board few students pay full price for college. It says full-time students at private institution receive about ,000 in aid each year thanks to grants and tax benefits, while the aid is about ,100 at public four-year schools.
The first step is to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), using your tax return. Schools use this as a basis for award decisions, and don’t delay, since awards are made on first come, first served basis.
There are three types of federal student aid.
1. Grants– financial aid that you don’t have to be repaid.
2. Work-Study-allows you to earn money for your education.
3. Loans-allow you to borrow money for school, but it must be repaid with interest.
Talk to a school counselor about the qualifications for each of these and which would work best for you.
If going for a loan, shop around. Websites like ScholarPoint offer a variety of tools to understand and apply for loans from the Stafford loan for students to the PLUS loan for parents, and private education loans for undergraduate and graduate students.
Another and rarely used way to find money for college, is scholarships – apply, apply, apply. Guidance counselors frequently complain that there are so many scholarships out there, but few people apply. They say part of the problem is a misconception that a student has to be in sports or have straight A’s to get a scholarship.
But there is more than a billion dollars worth of national, state and local scholarships available and they vary according to your education level, talent, and background. You just have to look, and it doesn’t have to be a long drawn out chore hunting for scholarships. The College Board websites allows you to search some 2,300 sources of college funding, and so do websites like FastWeb , which has a personalized scholarship matching program.
Reducing the cost
Spending your first two years at a community college can also drastically cut down on the costs. Community colleges are usually less expensive than four-year schools, and attending one allows you to live at home, saving money on room and board. If you decide to start at a community college, make sure your courses will transfer to your four-year college, and they will count toward your bachelor’s degree. Discuss any concerns you have about transfer courses and credits with the college registrar.
With all these options and choices, one should never let the dream of going to college slip away, no matter their financial situation or circumstance.