Saving Money For College

Saving Money For College

Does Your Child Have Enough Money for College? 

Parents and their children ponder the same question throughout most of the world: what to do after high school graduation.  Should they get a job or pursue further education.  Some form of post secondary education is almost mandatory if a comfortable and enjoyable lifestyle is sought.

Studies have revealed that a person with a bachelor’s degree earns on average 70% more than the person with only a high school education.  Even those with a two-year associate degree earn considerably more. 

More than half of recent graduates in the United States engage in some type of schooling after high school.  This means that competition for the desirable jobs will be severe.  The college graduate will have more than twice the choice of job opportunities.

No doubt, a college education is expensive and the question arises can you afford to send your child to college.  Another question is:  can you afford not to.  The time to start the education fund should be before the future student is even born.  Let’s take a look at how much money we’re talking about.

It’s cheaper to go to a college or university in the state where you live.  Out of staters pay more if going to a public/state supported school.  Most private universities charge the same for both in state and out of state students. 

The basic expenses for each year of college include tuitions and fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation, miscellaneous and personal expenses.  The estimated total in a public school for 2008 is over $18,000.  By the year 2010, the cost is predicted to jump to more than $22,000.  Figure on three to five thousand dollars more for out of state students and twice that in a private institution.

The lion’s share of that total goes toward room and board.  So, if the student can eat and live at home that would be a huge savings.  Tuition and fees come in a close second and there aren’t many ways to get around that.  Books, supplies, transportation and personal expenses round out the rest of the total and a conservative student can help keep these costs at a reasonable level.

These costs can vary considerably depending on where you live and the lifestyle of the student.  If he or she attends school a great distance from home figure in the cost of travel to return home for at least a few visits each year. 

With the rising cost of gasoline this could be a major expense.  You can also count on entertainment expense, clothing, snacks and some schools require you have at least a desk top computer or even a laptop. 

Most of these costs are examples of attending a four-year university but there are also community colleges and technical schools which are usually cheaper.  They may also be more suited for some students.

No one knows exactly how much it will cost to attend college when you’re ready to go; but one thing is for sure, expenses are increasing at more than 10% a year, usually twice the general inflation rate.  Do your research.  A less expensive school may offer the same programs and benefits as a more expensive one.  You can count on a good return on your college investment.

Help Your Child Cut Costs at College 

Once you’re in college you probably need to continue to cut costs where you can but many of these ways to save begin even before you get there.  You’ll find that saving before and during your college days is an education in itself.  And, like any other learning experience it takes discipline and perseverance. 

Take advance placement courses (AP) and exams in high school.  If you do well you’re given college credit which can save you a bundle of money.  It’s possible if you place high enough that you can enter college as a 2nd year student.

Career focus educational programs are also available.  If you can master certain technical or occupational skills you may be able to skip them in college.  No need to repeat what you already know.  Learning about a career focus program can save you time and money.

Domestic service organizations offer young men and women an opportunity to work in community service programs around the country.  For doing the work, you receive both a living allowance while working and later an educational award to go toward fees and tuitions.  You not only earn money but learn at the same time while doing worthwhile community service.

On a more basic level, track your expenses on a spread sheet.  You can use this skill the rest of your life.  Instead of wondering at the end of the month where your money went just consult your expenditure sheet. 

Track all money spent from pizzas and videos to copying and books.  Buying used books, by the way, is a great way to save. Your parents will be impressed.  It’s a good idea to pay cash if at all possible but if you must use a credit card make sure it’s paid off at the end of the month.

Eat healthy carbs like rice and pasta and avoid expensive fast foods that are loaded with fat.  Cook inexpensive foods in your dorm if allowed and sign up for the cafeteria plan.

Hunt for free food. 

Free refreshments and heavy snacks are often offered to students to attract them to certain events.  Be aware of what’s happening on campus.  If you’re a coffee drinker, stay away from fancy coffee shops and brew your own.  You can study in your own room as well as the coffee shop table.

Speaking of free, save on entertainment costs by attending free events at school and in the community.  These can range from concerts, movies and poetry readings.  Check the school bulletin boards for dates and places and call the local chamber of commerce.

Stay in shape and stay healthy.  Avoid those costly doctor bills.  Get plenty of rest, eat well, and exercise.  Riding a bike instead of driving your car can give you plenty of exercise and save on gas at the same time.

If you must work to make ends meet while in school be careful your work and study schedules don’t conflict. Lessons learned on how to save while in college can be taken with you forever.  Self taught lessons are free and never forgotten.

How to Get Free Money for College 

Attending college is a large financial commitment.  But, there are many ways to obtain help financially, some free and some not.  Millions of students apply for and receive some sort of financial aid each year. 

Almost half of all students who go on to college after high school receive financial aid; so if you need help you’re not alone.  Financial aid comes in three main types at the college level:  Grants and scholarships, loans and work study.

The good news about grants and scholarships is they don’t have to be repaid but obtaining one of these is highly competitive.  Most students who qualify for these spend little time hanging out with the guys. 

They strive to excel in all courses of study.  Once you’re awarded a grant or scholarship you’ll probably have to maintain a certain grade level in college and may be required to take certain courses.

Student loans like any other loan has to be repaid but payments usually don’t begin until after graduation.  Interest rates on student loans are generally lower than a regular loan and easier to get for students who have no established credit rating. 

Be sure and read the fine print before signing any loan to understand the exact provisions.  Remember, this is a legal and binding loan you have to repay even if you don’t finish school.  It’s not from Uncle Ned who may say pay me when you can.  Failure to repay can smear the credit record of both the student and parents.

Work Study Programs are as the name implies.  You work and study.  This means you can work during the summer or part time during the school year.  Most colleges are very helpful to students who need to work to make ends meet and can help you find employment that won’t interfere with class schedules.  Many jobs are on campus alleviating any transportation problem.

Merit Based Financial Aid can reward students who have kept their nose to the books during high school.  This is not related to financial need but awarded to students who meet certain academic requirements.  Merit Based Aid can also be given to students who have done well, or have excelled, in some special talent.

Need Based Financial Aid is based on the students and their parent’s ability to pay college costs.  Talk to your school guidance counselor either in high school or college for the proper forms to make application.  As a matter of fact, be ready to fill out many applications and forms for any of the grants, loans and scholarships you apply for.

The federal government supplies most aid for college at about 75%, but there are other sources.  These include corporations, professional organizations such as Rotary Clubs, religious organizations and credit unions.  Contact the organization’s headquarters directly. With dogged determination you’ll find the money needed for your education.  It’s out there somewhere, whether free or not.  Go get it!

How to Raise Money for College Tuition 

It’s never too early to start saving and raising money if you want to go to college.  Grants, loans and scholarships are available to those who qualify but the more you can provide for yourself the less you’ll owe when you finally walk across the stage for your diploma.

Saving money is probably the best way to prepare for the expense of college.  Start early because it’s doubtful you’ll save too much.  One year at a state supported school can cost about $20,000 or more and double that at private institutions.  These estimated costs rise every year.

Let’s assume you start a savings account when you (or your baby) are born and you set aside $29 a month for the education fund.  You have 18 years before he or she begins college so there’s no rush right?  If you can find a 5% interest rate and faithfully contribute to it every month you’ll have $10,000 in your sock in 18 years.  It’s a good start but far from enough.

The later you start the more you would have to invest to even reach the $10,000 goal.

So, you not only want to begin as early as possible but invest as much as you can as well.  Strive to up your monthly contribution to at least $100.

Things to consider when you invest include risk, return, liquidity and time. Certainly do not risk your education fund money in a high-risk investment even though you may earn more. You may also lose the principal.  Even though you earn less you incur less risk.  You want minimum risk and maximum return.  Find a financial advisor you trust and listen.

Keep your funds liquid, in other words easily accessible.  An emergency could arise and you want easy access to your money without suffering a penalty.  And, determine how much time you have to save.  You can’t reach your goal if you don’t have ample time.

Have a movie night at your home or other location and ask for donations.  Let the people you invite know the money will go toward your education fund.  Make it a fun night.  Decorate with the appropriate movie theme and serve (inexpensive) refreshments such as popcorn and sodas.  A homemade movie would work and may even be better if it’s about the future student.  The bigger the TV screen the better for this event.

Part time jobs can add quickly to your fund.  Offer a typing service (if you’re a good typist).  As a student you realize how important good typing is on your papers.  Other students do too and perhaps they cannot type.

Sell on eBay.  Money is made there every day.  There is probably lots of stuff lying around the house you could sell and never leave home.  It will sharpen your computer skills as well.  Or, you can set up your own website and sell items. If you excel in a subject offer to tutor.  Post flyers around town and on school bulletin boards.

Decide which school you want to attend and determine how much it’s going to cost each year.  Set a goal to raise at least part of the money with savings, investments and odd jobs.  Some of the skills learned while raising money will serve you after college as well.

Student Loan Management Tips 

You did it!  You graduated from college after four long years and you’re ready to conquer the world and make your fortune.  Wait a minute!  Mom and Dad have cut the purse strings, you don’t have a job and you have a student loan to repay.  More than half of the graduates begin their first year out of college with a $20,000 student loan debt staring them in the face.

Find a job as quickly as possible but be particular as financially feasible.  While job searching, create a record of loan liability.  Dig out those old loan papers and know what you’ve agreed to. 

Plan carefully.  Determine how much you need to live on for everyday expenses and how much you need to pay on your loan.  You may have to find a part time job until the job of your dreams comes along.

Avoid incurring more debt, including credit cards.  You can’t expect to live the lifestyle of your parents just yet.  That will come.  Curtail your expenses until the debt is paid.  If you’re not married, share living expenses with someone including an apartment and car.  Minimize eating out, cook at home, don’t send your clothes to the laundry, wash them yourself.

Establish a good credit rating from the beginning.  If you don’t, it could follow you the rest of your life.  Make your payments on time and even a higher than minimum payment if you can.  If you have debts other than your student loan pay them off in a timely manner as well.  Consider debt consolidation only as a last resort.

If you find yourself in a position where you can’t make a payment on time call your lender and discuss it.  Let him know you’re trying and are concerned.  Perhaps he could give you advice on better budgeting. 

Also inform your lender if you move or change jobs.  If their statements to you are returned it will not look good on your credit report.  By the way, always check the statements for errors.

Be professional and honest.  Borrow only what you need and be responsible for the money owed.  Control expenses.  Perchance, if you fall on hard times, you could arrange for a lower monthly payment or request an extended grace period.

A loan forgiveness program could be arranged with extenuating circumstances.  This would forgive your loan but you would repay by volunteering at various community organizations.  Serving in the military could be another option in lieu of payment.

Until you get on your feet, request that family members give you cash for birthdays or other special occasions instead of that tie or scarf you really don’t need.  And, it’s a good idea not to lend money to friends, especially if you’re trying to get out of debt yourself.  You may lose both your money and your friend. How you handle your student loan debt could very well lay the financial groundwork for your future.  Keep saving and keep solvent.