The cost of college is on the rise, and if you have a high school student or a younger child who is starting to talk about college already, chances are you’re thinking about how you will fund your teen’s education.
Obviously, you should apply for financial aid by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and your teen should search for scholarship opportunities. But aside from you both taking out loans and tapping into your own savings, how else can you afford the price tag of higher education? Here are four creative ways to pay for college:
Explore prepaid tuition plans. The number of states that still offer prepaid tuition plans has dwindled over the last decade, but these plans do still exist. You can lock in today’s tuition rates for your child for the future. The risk, of course, is that your child might decide not to go to college. But many plans account for this possibility, so if you’re comfortable with the fine print, you can save big money this way. Take the Maryland Prepaid College Trust for example. If tuition increased 20% from the year you purchased your contract, the prepaid college trust would still pay that higher tuition. This program even lets you change the beneficiary on your account or delay using the funds if your child decides not to attend college right away.
Join the military. If your teen has ever considered serving our country, here’s another powerful incentive to do so: she will get funding for college. Check out the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), a program in which students attend school full time and receive financial assistance to cover their education costs. Eligibility and benefits vary depending on the branch of the armed services, but the benefits are great. Once your child graduates, she’ll have a commitment to serve on active duty in the military. The upside, of course, is a guaranteed job right after graduation and a generous ROTC scholarship.
Start at a community college. One of the most affordable ways to earn a bachelor’s degree is to start at a community college and then transfer to a four-year school to finish there. All across the country, states offer guaranteed transfer programs, which allow students to earn their first two years’ worth of college credits at a community college and be guaranteed to transfer into most any four-year colleges in that state as juniors. Going this route could save you and your teen tens of thousands of dollars.
Seek employer reimbursement. There are many corporations out there that offer tuition reimbursement as part of their benefits packages. Take Starbucks for example, which gives it part- and full-time employees 100% tuition coverage for a first-time bachelor’s degree through Arizona State University’s online program. Chipotle and Home Depot offer tuition reimbursement for hourly and salary employees too. If your teen is willing to work part time and go to college, it’s worthwhile to research corporations with tuition reimbursement programs.
Even if you’re willing to help fund your child’s education, it can’t hurt to explore the options to reduce the cost and likelihood that your child will have to go into debt. Remember to complete that FAFSA as soon after October 1 as possible the year that your child is a senior, which will ensure your teen is considered for federal assistance in the form of loans, grants, and work-study. Encourage your child to get to know the guidance counselor in high school, who will share information about scholarships and offer other ideas. It takes a little effort, but you can reduce the cost of college. Do your research, and feel free to call Huntington for tips and advice!