By Joni Lindquist, MBA, CFP®

The school year is upon us!  We all know that college costs have been rising over the last decades. For example, at a private college, tuition, room and board was $45,370 in 2017.  However, the average student paid only $26,080, according to The College Board.  At public universities last year, the average price was $20,090, yet the average in-state student paid $14,210.

How can you pay less than sticker price?  Here are eight possible ways:

  1. Scholarships

There are numerous sites listing scholarships. As your child heads into their sophomore or junior year in high school, start investigating available scholarships on sites like:

  • com – recently had over 750 scholarships listed. One of note – the “Hansen Leader of Tomorrow” for $4,000 for graduating seniors in 26 counties of NW Kansas.
  • com & Fastweb.com– match your criteria to opportunities.
  • com – you pay a fee around $2,000, but they guarantee to save you money – their website claims an average savings of $18,872 last year.
  1. Start at a community college, then transfer

We’ve worked with several clients, particularly in the KC area, where their child has attended community college for one or two years and then transfer these credits to a four-year institution.  Make sure that the four-year college will accept the credits your son/daughter earns at the community college.

  1. Live at home OR buy real estate in college town

If you live near a college town, it may make sense for your son/daughter to live at home and commute.  The downside, as with community college, is the loss of the campus experience.  An alternative is to buy a home in the college town, avoiding room and board; and renting out bedrooms to your child’s friends to help pay the mortgage.  You must trust your child in taking care of the property, plus have the cash flow to make a down payment.  Plus there is the risk of a down real estate market when you go to sell.

  1. Deferred enrollment plans

Some colleges will allow your child to defer their enrollment for a year or two, once they have been accepted.  It’s worth going through the application process to get admitted and eliminate that uncertainty so that your son/daughter can focus on earning money during this gap year.  One concern is that they decide they don’t need college after all.  On the bright, side, your child may be more mature and value the college experience more after taking a year off to earn money.

  1. 5. Co-Op Programs

Many colleges offer co-op programs where the student alternates semesters of study with semesters of full-time work in a field related to their majors.  This works best if your child is committed to their major.  While this may extend the college experience to five years, your son/daughter will have relevant work experience to show hiring companies upon graduation.  Check  www.co-op.edu  for a listing of programs.

  1. Employer Sponsored Tuition Assistance

Keeping with the theme of your son/daughter working, more companies are now offering tuition reimbursement programs for undergraduate degrees.  This list include UPS, ADT, Verizon, Starbucks, Lowes, Southwest Airlines, PepsiCo, Publix, Comcast, Wells Fargo, Wall-Mart and Chipotle.  Your child can be a barista and get help with tuition – earning income while also reducing his/her tuition bill!

  1. Military programs

There are three options: 1) Attend a service academy (ex. Air Force Academy). Your child receives a free education, plus will earn a salary each year while in school.  Entry is highly competitive, and they must serve a minimum of five years of active duty after graduation.   2) Serve in the military and use GI bill to pay for college.  3) Join Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).  Students attend school full-time and participate in a part-time officer-training program. ROTC scholarships offers free tuition, fees, and books in exchange for up to four years of active duty following graduation. Your child can apply at a military recruiting office during junior or senior year of high school.

  1. Canadian college

Lastly, look north. The best colleges in Canada are highly regarded but come at a fraction of the price.  Living in a different country can provide a great college experience.  Plus, with a global economy, it may give your child a leg up with prospective employers.

Invest some time in exploring these options to reduce your college bill!

Joni Lindquist, MBA, CFP® is a Principal at Aspyre Wealth Partners, formerly KHC Wealth Management. She partners with clients to help them Master What’s Next®, clarifying and achieving their aspirations at each phase of life.  Lindquist is an active member of the Financial Planning Association of Greater Kansas City.

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