Don’t Let The Economic Crisis Derail Your College Plans

College and the Economy

By Sharon Mclaughlin, Mclaughlin Education Consulting
05/05/2015
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The current economic crisis may have students and families thinking that a college education is out of grasp. But before you give up on your plans to pursue a college education consider the following strategies:

1) Develop A College Funding Plan - College planning really is a family undertaking. Families should be having open and honest discussions about college plans, career interests, what the parents can reasonably contribute and what is expected of the child by junior year. Make it clear if the child is expected to work during the summer and/or school year to pay for college or take out student loans. Will the parents be willing to assist in the repayment of those student loans? Revisit the plan annually or as circumstances change.

2) Meet & Greet with the Financial Aid Director - The family should meet with the college’s Financial Aid Director if there’s sudden change in the family’s financial situation, (a loss of a job, foreclosure or bankruptcy). Aid Administrators have the ability to make professional judgment adjustments for these situations. The student may become eligible for aid or receive additional financial aid.  Documentation would be required (a copy of the layoff, any anticipated unemployment benefits, or foreclosure notices).

3) Consider Attending College In-State – Is your child planning to attend an out –of- state college?  You may want to work with your child to find an in-state college and within commuting distance, thus saving on room and board costs.

4) Strike A Deal With Your Child - If a child is really determined to attend his or her first choice college, parents may want to work out  an agreement, where the parents will pay for the tuition and require the student to take on the responsibility of paying for room and board, through financial aid, scholarship and part-time jobs. Colleges have student employment offices that assist students in finding on-campus and off-campus employment, in addition to work-study jobs that students may be awarded as part of their financial aid package.

5) Go Public - Attending a state college or university for the undergraduate degree is a particularly savvy financial move, when a student intends to pursue a graduate degree. Keep in mind that community colleges are a great bargain and the credits are generally transferable to a 4 year public or private college.

6) Adopt A State - Thinking of attending an out-of-state public college? Establish legal residency in your "adopted" state by registering to vote or getting a driver's license to qualify for in-state tuition. Find out from the financial aid office the in-state residency requirement to get the in-state tuition rates. Generally, it’s 6 or 12 months.

7) Read Your Employee Handbook--- Plan to pursue a degree part-time while working? Most employers will pay for courses that relate to the employee's career. Some pay for other courses at a reduced rate. Most benefits are paid as reimbursements once you successfully complete the class. So you would need to come up with the tuition at the beginning of the semester. Check with the HR department at your company for specifics.

8) Make It a Family Affair - In some families, grandparents (or other relatives) may want to assist children with college costs. I would counsel relatives in this situation to consult with their financial planner or tax consultant before pursuing this option to minimize tax liability.

9) Go Virtual - Online courses can reduce college costs. Many private and public colleges offer online courses and degree programs. As with any transfer courses, check with the Registrar at the college to ensure that it would be accepted, before signing up for the course.

10) Search Out Discounted Tuition - Check for regional tuition discounts. TuitionBreak, a program through the New England Board of Higher Education is an example. NE students are eligible for reduced tuition at out- of -state NE state colleges and universities in programs not available in-state. Check the NEBHE website, www.nebhe.org. The rates are discounts on the out- state tuition rates that would otherwise be charged. The NEBHE site states that students who have used this program have saved on average $7,000 annually.

11) Take A Sibling to College - If two or more family members attend the same college ( siblings, spouses, or parent & child) some private colleges offer family discounts for each additional family member that are enrolled in the college. Check the catalogue or with the Bursar's Office on campus.

12) Consider A Career (Or At Least A Job) In Education – Parents, one of the advantages of working for a college is that they provide educational benefits not only for employees but for employees’ dependents (spouses & children). So if you or your child is considering attending a local college, consider a job change.

Photo courtesy of Sami Keinänen

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