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Managing The Cost Of College

All too soon annual back-to-school shopping for pencils, lunch boxes and backpacks becomes shopping for dorm supplies and managing that first tuition check. While everyone wants to give their children the best education possible, the reality is that there are ever-increasing college costs to be considered.

Rather than saddling yourself or your child with an endless future paying off significant college debt, look at ways to control costs while still achieving a quality education for your child.

The following tips may help:

1. Start saving early and make it automatic because the sooner you start saving, the more you can save over time. Making your savings plan automatic makes it easier to do. Setting up monthly deductions from your checking account into a 529 account can be a great way to accomplish this.

2. Enlist relatives in the cause rather than give your child more toys to add to the pile on birthdays and holidays. Perhaps they can take all or a portion of what they would spend on gifts and make a contribution to your child’s 529 account instead.

3. Encourage your child to take advantage of Advanced Placement (AP) classes if offered at your child’s high school. These classes can help her or him earn college credit, saving you both time and money. By taking multiple AP classes and successfully passing the AP tests, your child can potentially meet the requirements of a number of college courses, saving hundreds and even thousands in college tuition costs. Sharing this plan of action with your child earlier rather than later can help them develop the mindset to do the work to make this happen. Colleges will specify the AP scores they require to earn specific credit, so researching beforehand makes sense. You can also find out more about AP classes on the College Board website at https://apstudent.collegeboard.org/exploreap.

4. Have your child research and apply for scholarships. Every year many scholarships for college go unclaimed. Your child’s school’s counseling office will have information on the many scholarships available. There are also resources online, including resources offered by the College Board at https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/scholarship-search, that can help uncover these scholarship opportunities.

5. Consider community college. If you are lucky enough to have a good community college nearby, your child can start college there with the goal of transferring to a four-year college later. This can save thousands in terms of room and board expenses that you won’t have to pay, as well as save money due to less expensive tuition. Most community colleges have a college transfer program and a counselor will sit down with your child to create the educational plan that will help them transfer successfully to the college of their choice. So they can potentially earn half their degree (60 credits, an Associate’s degree) at a less expensive community college before transferring to the more expensive four-year college to finish their degree.

If you take advantage of any of these tips, your child can potentially earn a degree from the college of their choice but won’t spend a significant part of their adult life burdened by student debt obligations. If you, as a parent, are paying for their college education, you’ll have more money to put toward another important goal such as your retirement.

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