The average tuition and fees for private colleges in 2015-2016 is $32,599 a year. Paying for college is a process that should be planned out early, building and using a collection of savings, institutional aid, grants and gifts – and if necessary – loans. Here are some steps to help you get started.
- Apply for financial aid. Even if you don’t think you qualify, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. You may be surprised with the outcome.
- Apply for national grants. Pell Grants, Academic Competitiveness and National SMART Grants. The guidance department at your child’s school can help.
- Apply for local scholarships. Many civic organizations have aid to give out that most students never even apply for.
- Send out many college applications. Applying to more schools, means a better chance of getting into one and a higher likelihood of receiving a financial aid package. And if you get more offers, you may be able to negotiate a better deal for your top school.
- Service commitment. Many service organizations like the Peace Corp or ROTC offer college money in exchange for a service commitment after graduation.
- Look into schools abroad. Many are less expensive then private US colleges and universities.
- Stay local initially. Start your education at a low-cost community college and transfer to a four-year college for the final two years. This will save tuition and room and board for the first two years while living at home.
- Explore tax options. American Opportunity Tax and Lifetime Learning Credits are two tax options for tax savings while in school.
- Explore federal options. If loans are needed, look in to federal options, such as Stafford and Perkins loans first. These are cheaper and have more flexible repayment options.
- Invest in a 529 plan. If you have some time before college, a 529 savings plan is an attractive way to save. A 529 plan allows users to select from a variety of funds in which to invest, including real estate and money market accounts. In CT, parents with a 529 plan qualify for an income tax deduction or credit on contributions.
One of the most important reasons to earn a college degree is to increase your earning potential. If you obtain a college degree, you’re more likely to earn more throughout your career and you’ll be more marketable to a greater range of career options.