Maybe I should have called this article, “My Kid Is Seventeen, Should I Start Saving for College?”, since that’s the scenario I see frequently on social media. My friends are paying more on their kids’ college loans than their own homes, or sacrificing retirement savings. I’m not about to suggest that any parent shouldn’t do as much as they can to help their kids, but college costs can be out of control. Not wanting to mortgage my house or gamble my future on my kids’ decisions at age 18, I found some tips to help keep college costs down.
Live at Home
Yes, part of having the collegiate experience includes fighting with your roommate or late-night study sessions until the library closes. It’s not just fees for room and board you’ll save by staying local, though. Some schools offer free tuition to recent local high school graduates. State schools offer lower rates for in-state students, and coming home on breaks won’t require plane fare. As a bonus, your kid will still be eligible to participate in most of the activities at school, for the full experience.
Apply for ALL the Grants and Scholarships
You will have to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form for nearly any school you attend, whether you plan to get federal loans or not. But the FAFSA isn’t the only game in town. Ask at your social clubs or business organizations to see if they offer scholarships. Check with the department heads at schools you are considering to see if there are scholarships for students pursuing your son’s intended major. Even your employer may offer scholarships to children of employees. Don’t worry if your kid’s grades aren’t perfect, many grants and scholarships take other talents and interests into consideration!
Dust Off the Bicycle
Parking on campus can come with a hefty price tag, and you risk an increase in car insurance if the campus is in a higher-theft area as well as a higher fuel cost. Break-downs can leave your daughter stranded and saddled with hefty repair charges. Taking the bike instead will provide great exercise and cheap transportation. It usually costs nothing to use the bike rack in front of college buildings, and the cost of a bike repair is usually minimal, and at times no more than some oil and a wrench.
Don’t Buy New Books
Your college may offer book rentals rather than purchase, and rentals are often available on e-readers as well. If an older friend or relative took the class recently, offer to do laundry or cook in exchange for the book, or see if you can make a trade. Download a free e-reader and see if the books you need are available for less there. Go off-campus to other used bookstores where you may find better deals. Just avoid new books if at all possible.
OK, that’s not really what I mean. But sometimes taking a year off, or “gap year”, makes a lot of sense. If your son’s goals are unclear, paying for four years of college just for the experience is definitely not budget-friendly. A couple of months in Europe or an apprenticeship in a potential field will provide excellent experiences at a fraction of the cost. A job in a field close to their possible major will provide some savings while helping them decide on firmer goals. If you go this route, have a clear definition of what a “year off” means in your family. If college is the goal, it shouldn’t mean a year of Netflix, video games and couch-surfing!
This guest post is courtesy of The Ivy Apartments located in Rexburg, ID, home of Brigham Young University, Idaho. The Ivy is known for BYU-Idaho women’s housing and the amenities it provides resident students.