A recent study by College Savings Foundation found that 82% of students believe it is their responsibility to pay for at least part of their higher education. 71% of students said they would pay for at least 25% of college costs. While this is up from 53% the previous year, 25% of college costs can be a pretty big number and if students do not have a plan for saving, they won't be able to actually contribute this money. With cost of attendance, for one year at private 4 year colleges averaging $46,272, it is essential that families begin talking about college costs, financing, and responsibilities before junior year. If your student expects to pay for at least 25% of college costs each year, they will need $11,000 a year. They'll need to save this amount before they graduate high school but that is just for one year of college. They'll then need a solid plan for how they'll save for their contribution of the next 3 years.
So how can students save? Students can get a part-time job during the school year, making sure to put away most of this money for their college fund. They could also work more hours during the summer and do the same with their paycheck. Not only is this great for their savings, it will also show admissions officers that the student is responsible, is able to manage their time, and is able to juggle multiple responsibilities at the same time like school and work. Students who do this could save $3,000-$7,000 a year! Students can also contribute to their own 529 plan with these funds! Students should also be on the lookout for scholarships for kids their age. While there aren't as many scholarships for 9th or 10th graders as there are for seniors, there are still great scholarships for them! Students should take the initiative and research these scholarships and apply for them! A few helpful sites: www.fastweb.com ; https://colleges.niche.com/ ; www.cappex.com.
How can parents save and make college more affordable? Well, it is important to make sure you fill out the FAFSA. This is done in the student's senior year of high school. The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. By filling this out, you will automatically qualify your student for state and federal grants and some scholarships. Check to see if your employer offers tuition assistance program or scholarships for the kids of employees. Also check with your union, church, or any professional organizations you are a part of and ask them if they offer scholarships for the kids of members. Start a 529 savings plan and ask friends and family to contribute to it instead of buy gifts for holidays and birthdays. This might seem odd to some people but the money really adds up!
At Riley College Advising, we counsel families through the financial aid process and help them make realistic plans for paying for college. We're here to help make this stressful process a lot more manageable and even, enjoyable.