It’s possible for a young adult to experience the total college experience or obtain a marketable degree without accumulating a ridiculous amount of student loan debt. Most parents plan for their child’s future college education without taking into account the fact that they can’t control what their adult child ultimately does after turning 18. Some of the best laid plans can turn to dust so it’s always best to have backup ideas when it comes to college planning.
Some parents take a tough approach to their child’s college planning. They figure their child can pay his or her own way through college. But when their child threatens to go into the military since the military pays for college, they have a quick change of attitude.
Don’t count on in-state tuition
One of the first mistakes parents often make is assuming their son or daughter will save money by attending a college in their home state. Many states offer special scholarships that are only good if a child decides to attend a state school. Compete for scholarships that allow a child to go away to college.
If a child does decide to attend college out of state, consider community colleges with residential halls or dorms for a less expensive but still authentic college experience. Some students are able to pay cash for college instead of racking up student loan debt by attending the more affordable community college for the first two years.
Focus on a realistic degree
Another college planning pitfall is encouraging a child to go to college without any realistic or specific goal in mind. Be aware of the fact that the most lucrative and in-demand areas of studies such as nuclear medicine often have waiting lists to be accepted into the program. College students can accumulate tens of thousands of dollars in debt because they switch majors or programs. After committing to a program, make sure to apply at least one year in advance to avoid being put on a waiting list. Research different fields of study first to make sure a particular degree will result in a job with an accompanying desirable salary.
Take advantage of what’s free
Save money on college tuition by taking advantage of advanced placement classes in high school. Consider taking college level placement exams. However, check with the college or university to find out how many credits are transferable. Some high school students are able to receive college credit through dual enrollment programs that grant both high school and college credit at the same time.
Budget for more than just tuition
It goes without saying that college tuition is expensive. Many colleges and universities have had regular tuition increases due to the recession and other factors. Start saving money as early as possible. Many students and parents make the mistake of saving only for tuition. Plan for housing costs including heating bills if the student lives off campus, but not at home. Save money for car expenses since a student may need to provide his or her own transportation to get to internships, student teaching or practicum.
Encourage college student to work
Paying for college with cash is not easy for most middle-class families. However, it can be done with the right strategies. Encourage a child between 8 to 16 hours a week at a part-time job, realizing a college-student can only juggle so much. Some of the best jobs for college students include tutoring other students, working as a residential assistant in a dormitory or serving food. Avoid pizza-delivery jobs that may increase car insurance or jobs that require too much commuting or gasoline.