As a parent, you look forward to every milestone in your child’s life. It starts with the first smile.
Then there is the first step, the first day of school, and riding a bike.
Before you know it, your child is in high school and rapidly preparing for life’s next big step.
While college may not work for everyone, if your child is suited and ready to move towards extending his or her education, you know it is expensive. And, while you may think it is your responsibility to pay for it. Know one thing.
There is nothing that says parents must pay for college. Would it be nice to be able to afford it?
But the reality is that most parents can’t afford it. That means your child needs to work with you to find a way to pay to attend their favorite university.
I get where you are in your journey as I have a freshman in high school. We’ve started the conversations here. And, although we are going to help her with college, we are not footing the entire bill.
We are getting her involved in the conversation about how she is going to help us pay for college. When she is involved in the planning and saving, it puts her in control of covering the costs of college.
Take advanced classes
Most high schools offer advanced placement classes that allow students to earn college credits — while still in high school. The more they take in school, the fewer hours they have to pay for when they attend college.
You and your child should visit with your school counselor about the courses and options available through your district.
Sign up for reduced or free tuition programs
Some schools work with local community colleges to offer free or reduced tuition costs for students who meet certain criteria. Doing so reduces the costs of tuition. Your student may need to follow specific guidelines such as:
- Minimum GPA
- Low absentees
- Mentorship or volunteering
Your guidance counselor or local college can assist you in signing up for this program.
Skip the four-year school (to start)
Often, the costs of attending a two-year community college are much lower than those of a four-year university. According to Student Loan Hero, the average credit hour cost for community college is $135 compared to more than $300 for a state college.
Talk with your child about spending the first two years at community college before transferring to their dream school. The savings can be substantial.
Apply for scholarships
Countless scholarships go unclaimed each year. Work with your child and make it a “job” for them to apply for as many scholarships as they can. Four $250 scholarships are better than none at all!
Find a part-time job
Your child is old enough to get a part-time job. And, while he or she may be intent on spending their paycheck on a car or pizza on Friday with their friends, talk about saving.
Encourage your student to put 20% of each paycheck into a high-yield savings account. You could even help them set up an automated transfer from their bank account, so they never miss the money.
Create the parent match
If you have a 401(k) plan at work, your employer may provide a matching feature. They may match you dollar-for-dollar or a percentage of your contributions. The amount does matter. The point is they are encouraging you to save by helping increase your account.
Try that with your kids. Set up a dollar-for-dollar or even 50-cents-on-the-dollar match for your child. Doing so encourages them to build their savings as it will grow much more rapidly with your help.
Forgo the gifts
If your teen is anything like mine, she never knows what she wants for her birthday or Christmas. Rather than spend money buying things they may not need, ask friends and family to contribute to a college savings account, such as a 529 plan.
Check with your CPA or financial planner about the right types of savings options.
It’s a family affair
Saving for college should not be only the responsibility of mom and dad. Your student needs to be involved as they are one who wants to go to college.