A college education is one of the most rewarding investments you can make; but financing that education can often feel unattainable, and overwhelming, especially for families who have more than one child planning on attending college. On the contrary; today “most students pay less than a college’s sticker price thanks to financial aid,” according to experts at Big Future CollegeBoard. So even if the cost of college looks too expensive at first glance, it’s typically more affordable than you may think.
Before we jump into the details, start exploring the basics: like getting the most accurate estimate of your child’s college tuition, fees, housing, etc. The best way to get clarity on the cost of college is with a net price calculator – a tool designed to provide a preliminary estimate of your scholarship, federal and institutional aid eligibility; giving you a better idea of what your out-of-pocket expenses will be. Learn more about the net price of college, here.
How can you make the cost of college more affordable?
Enrolling in a college program before college
If you want to save money on college tuition, consider enrolling your child in a Pre-College program or encouraging them to challenge themselves with AP level courses during their junior or senior year of high school. Pre-College programs, like the one offered through the University of Vermont is open to high school students who have completed 10th, 11th, or 12th grade. Students enrolled in the UVM Pre-College program are evaluated by the same academic standards and procedures as UVM undergraduate students. Completed college credit courses will result in an official college grade and will be added to the student’s University of Vermont transcript.
An alternative or further opportunity to get ahead before the first-year of college is through Advanced Placement (AP), College Level Examination Program (CLEP) or college credit taken in high school. Learn more about getting credit for these programs, courses and exams by visiting the college website that your child is applying to.
Financial Aid, Grants and Scholarships 101
Financial Aid 101
First things first, determine what your family can afford and shape a personable budget around this. You can ask yourself questions like, what’s affordable? Or what will require some assistance? Once your child has settled on a college, consider the benefits of utilizing the financial services department. Student financial services have experts on hand to help you understand the options that you have and how to make it work for your family and financial situation. While tools and resources like FAFSA are certainly a great place to begin; working with Student Financial Services will be the most helpful option when navigating federal loans.
Grants and Scholarships 101
According to Big Future CollegeBoard: “students received a total of $112 billion in scholarships and grants in 2011-12. About 44% of this free money comes from the federal government and, to qualify, you need to fill out the FAFSA. Here’s a breakdown of where grant money comes from: 44% Federal, 33% College, 10% Private, 9% State.” Below is a list of where you can start to look for scholarships and grants to support your child’s cost of tuition:
- Colleges: Merit or needs based
- Private organizations: your employer, non-profit organizations or religious center
Tips and Tricks: Your Guide to Saving Money
Just like any other financial requirement or need; the sooner you start saving, the better. However, it’s never too late to start planning for the cost of your child’s cost of tuition. Here are just a few ways both you and your child can save money on the cost of college and the lifestyle that comes with it:
- Rent textbooks from the college bookstore
- Set a budget for both you and your child
- Always pay bills on time to avoid unnecessary late fees
- If your child has a car, consider what you could both save by having them utilize public transportation, or walking (if they are attending college in an urban setting)
- Encourage your child to shop where they offer student discounts and to take advantage of campus events (most are free with a student ID)
- Hold your child accountable when it comes to class, even if they don’t attend, you’re still required to pay
Determining the cost of college and navigating sources for grants, scholarships and other means of financial aid can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re managing it on your own. If you need any assistance, reach out to your child’s school counselor or college admissions for extra support and additional resources.