Congratulations! You are in possession of a future high school graduate. The carpools have diminished, the lunches have been packed, and homecoming and prom dramas are behind you. You are about to enter the most expensive part of raising a child…and you thought daycare was costly!
There is hope if you and your student are willing to be creative. In about their sophomore year, given foresight, your teen could have taken Advanced Placement Courses or been involved with programs offered by high schools that allow for college credit. This does require some footwork. Talking to a counselor early and knowing your student’s goals is required. If the student has a culinary, cosmetology or trade interest early, look to see what is available within the high school curriculum (Remember, in most States the educational dollar now follows the student. You are no longer held by district boundaries.) Applying the credits gained in secondary school to post-secondary often the reduces the number of credit hours required for a degree and are more cost effective in the long run.
Scholarships and grants are free money; no amount of is too small. Talk to, but don’t depend solely on the high school counselor to find these all. Participation in extracurricular activities, can be a source of scholarship. It isn’t just the high school athlete or academic that captures these. Do your research. A caution here: the scholarship dollar value does not generally rise with the tuition cost. Often there is added participation requirements on these as well.
Vocational/technical schools and apprenticeships are viable ways into employment without the high cost of other higher education. Honest dialog with your student about career goals and interests before heading down the road to college is paramount. Projecting parental expectations onto kids without considering the financial ramifications can lead to years of debt.
Beginning at a community college can offer multiple benefits. The cost is less per credit hour and most transfer to State Universities as well as the cost of "finding themselves” is at a greatly reduced rate. Commonly, there is up to a 47% reduction in tuition and an associate’s degree can be the added bonus! If one of these colleges is available nearby and your relationship can withstand the growing pains into adulthood, living at home can also be added monies saved. This does not decrease your water bill or food consumption!
Room and board savings can’t be discounted…as long as it is the right thing to do with your burgeoning adult. You will still incur commute expenditures, parking fees, and they do have to eat, but on average approximately a third of the total yearly cost for a major state school is room and board. Communicate. Although not financial, living at home has a cost; in the end you would like to be on speaking terms.
If your student is focused on a program that only fits with a university, starting the program freshman year may be the best choice. There are options here as well. Work study is available at most universities and carries the added benefit of preparing them for the workforce in general.
Don’t be intimidated. If higher education is planned for appropriately, it is not insurmountable. Your Certified Financial Planner can help you prepare a plan that works for you.