What to do if you haven’t saved enough for your child’s tuition

College expenses are no laughing matter. It seems that once we’ve finally paid off our own tuition bills, we are faced with teenagers of our own and their college expenses.

According to The College Board, the cost of tuition increases has been about 5% annually over the last 10 years1, making it easy to fall short of your goal. With a little ingenuity though, you can still help your beloved prospective student afford a great college experience.

Consider alternatives

Often we become convinced that the only “real” way to do college is on-campus for four years at the school we intend to graduate from. The reality however is there are some big savings to be found if you are willing to start at a community college, commute from home and/or transfer to your preferred school for the last year or two of school.

Many students on a budget start at a local community college or state school where the cost of attendance is lower,” explains Wilma Broering, Certified Financial Counselor with Foresters Everyday Money, “In fact many families find that they can pay for the first two years in full that way, reducing the pressure to take on student debt.”

Apply for grants and scholarships

There are scholarships available if a student knows where to look, but scholarships will not come looking for your student. If a student treats finding scholarships and grants like a part time job they can earn some generous funding.

Looking for a scholarship opportunity? Checkout the “Great Foresters Financial scholarship search 2017!

Keep in mind that there is no such thing as “free money” – your student will need to put in the effort and use a system to track deadlines and submission requirements. Many students who follow this plan end up at least partially funding their education.

Be extremely careful when taking on debt

Once you determine how much money you have saved, how much you can secure in scholarships and how much you can pay-as-you-go, you may be down to considering student loans. It’s tempting to jump to student loans first, because generally there is not credit qualifying and there is no calculation done as to whether your child can repay the debt once they graduate.

Don’t give into this easy money. It’s anything but easy when after graduating your child is facing $500-$600 per month in payments. Financing a portion of your child’s college education may make sense as interest rates are lower than unsecured debt such as credit cards.

Try to think reasonably when advising your child about taking on student debt and develop a plan to manage payments even if they don’t get that dream job right after graduation.

Overall, funding your child’s college experience can be manageable if you stay flexible and rational about what constitutes a reasonable amount to pay.

Looking for more about scholarships? Also read:

What do students think? Foresters scholarship survey results!

Scholarship success: Meet the McDonalds!

Scholarship Success: A tale of two tunes

  1. College Board: Trends in College Pricing 2016

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Marcy Musselman

Marcy Musselman is a Financial Coach for Foresters Everyday Money, providing unbiased financial coaching and education with the goal of improving the financial wellbeing of Foresters Members. With over 20 years’ experience in the fields of investments, insurance, student loans and mortgages, Marcy writes about all aspects of personal finance with a focus on how family life changes effect credit, debt and budgeting needs.