Higher education more often than not comes with a high cost. For those who know where to look, it’s absolutely possible to find ways to bring down that bill and make seeking a higher education more affordable. Below are avenues where students and their parents can find ways to offset costs.
Start Saving Early
This might be the most common tip out there, but it doesn’t hurt to hear it one more time. Parents, if possible, start putting away funds for college the moment your child is born. Time can do wonders to help “grow” your money. This article on College Advantage focuses on Ohio’s 529 college savings plan, but also includes other tips on how to start saving even before your child is born. For example, consider listing college fund donations at your baby shower. As for the 529 college savings fund, this article also goes in depth to explain the benefits of compound interest and why starting early is truly worth it.
Make use of FAFSA and/or CSS
In order for your student to establish eligibility for financial aid, they are required to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Some schools also require a College Scholarship Service Profile (CSS), run through the College Board. Anna Helhoski from Nerdwallet offers amazing insight on the differences between the two in this article.
FAFSA asks about household income, tax status, demographics, and even whether or not there are multiple people in one household attending a higher education institution. Schools use the information from this application to determine eligible financial aid packages for your student. For help with filling out the FAFSA, check with your local public library to see if they have help sessions or if your municipality hosts any help sessions.
For the CSS Profile, Teddy Nykiel from Nerdwallet walks you through the application process in this article. A big difference between the CSS Profile and FAFSA is that the CSS Profile tends to ask more in regards to the financial status of the student and the student’s parents, and there’s a $25 application fee (the FAFSA application is free). Not all schools require the CSS, but some schools do use it to establish eligibility, so make sure to research the financial aid requirements of all the schools your student is applying to.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask for an Appeal
When your student receives that acceptance letter and/or financial aid award letter and the numbers still aren’t working out, try to appeal. If this is a school your student really wants to attend, it’s worth a shot to make a case for more financial aid. Have your student write to their college’s financial aid department to explain why they need more financial aid; this is a chance to explain your and your student’s financial situation in a way that neither the FAFSA or CSS might be able to capture. Katie Lobosco from CNN Money includes more information on how to write a strong appeal in this article.
Look into Loans
While taking on debt is rarely a good idea, sometimes when the scholarships and grants still aren’t enough, loans offer that last leg of support. Before your student takes on any student loans, make sure to understand the terms and conditions, especially the interest rate and repayment plans. Satta Sarmah Hightower’s article on Credit Karma breaks down all the different types of loans and their repayment plans to provide some more clarity and prevent entering a cycle of debt.
With federal, state, and local financial aid, along with aid directly from your student’s college or university of choice, there are plenty of ways to bring down the cost you have to pay for that degree. Simple Tuition has a comprehensive “Parent’s Finance Guide to a Child’s Education” that provides plenty of information on different types of ways to pay tuition (such as considering pre-paying tuition to lock in costs or using your home equity). For those who are starting a save just a bit later, Ken Clark from The Balance offers five tips to stay on schedule in this article. Do your research and understand the resources available for both you and your student to make the most of your money in securing that higher education.