Paying For College: 4 Tips For Keeping The Cost Of An Education Affordable
College is already in full swing, and if you’re trying to pay as you go, or your child is going to a location that is simply too expensive for college and financial aid, you can still take proactive steps to help defray the costs. In a recent blog post, our friends at Nationwide Insurance outlined some ways that many parents and children alike can be empowered on the topic of tuition assistance. And since tuition tends to increase about 8 percent per year, it’s never too soon (or too late) to get started. Here’s how you can do just that.
College Savings Plan
When it comes to a worthwhile endeavor like college, the government does a lot to help parents and students out. Among these offers of assistance, “There are tax-advantaged savings vehicles, such as 529 plans, that are set up specifically to pay for college,” Nationwide explains, adding that “It is important to research college savings options carefully, just as you would research any other major investments. Certain aspects of these savings vehicles, such as tax implications or qualified expenses, vary and may not fit your exact needs.”
Your insurance company will often be able to guide you in the right direction on this, if they don’t offer a direct product themselves.
Ask For College Contributions Instead Of Gifts
Don’t think for a minute you’re being rude. Your family and friends are the people closest to you. They want to do something that will have a positive effect on your future and ease your mind as you and your child start a new chapter of life. As Nationwide states, “Family and friends are going to give your child gifts for holidays and birthdays anyway, so consider asking them to contribute to your child’s college fund instead.”
Federal, State, And College-Specific Aid
Yes, when it comes to financial aid, you have three options — that which is offered by the federal government (think low-interest loans, Pell grants, scholarships), those offered by the state, and those directly available through the college itself. “Complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid [FAFSA] and the U.S. Department of Education will let you know what your family is expected to pay toward college expenses,” writes Nationwide. “Your child may be eligible for a federal Pell Grant or a grant specific to a career path such as teaching. If your child is attending a school in your home state, he or she may also be eligible for state assistance. Many private colleges and universities also administer their own financial assistance. Contact a financial aid administrator at your child’s school of choice to find out.”
Employer Tuition Assistance
Probably the most underutilized option that many college students and their parents could have available to them is employer-based tuition assistance. “In some industries,” Nationwide notes, “it is fairly common for employers to offer some type of tuition reimbursement. Ask a human resources administrator whether these benefits extend to your dependents.”
Controlling the costs of college is admittedly getting more difficult each year, but it’s still possible for you or your child to get a quality education without breaking the bank. One additional suggestion we’d make that our friends at Nationwide did not is this: pay close attention to school selection, and consider going to a community college for the first two years since the associates degree is largely the same value wherever you attend. If you or your child were to do this and then transfer to a more prestigious university in order to finish up the undergraduate and graduate work, you can cut potentially thousands of dollars off the final tab. Good luck, whatever you decide!