As parents of soon-to-be college-bound children, we're always searching for ways to minimize the expense. Here are 12 tips for avoiding or minimizing costly college loans.
Published: May 1, 2018
By: Pam Molnar
- Start by getting good grades in high school. Your GPA and ACT/SAT scores will award you merit scholarships without even having to apply for them. Many schools have charts and scholarship calculators where prospective students can plug in their scores to reveal their automatic breaks.
- Take AP courses or college credit courses. Many high schools offer dual enrollment college credit courses through a local community college. In addition, students taking AP classes in high school can test at the end of the school year and those who receive a C or higher on the test will get college credit for the class. The AP test is about $100 – much less than the cost of a college class and corresponding books.
- Apply for national scholarships. Before you apply, make a list of all your associations as well as those of your immediate family. There are scholarships available for left-handers, children and grandchildren of war veterans and family of members of groups such as the Lions Club. Check out websites like collegescholarships.comor books like “The Ultimate Scholarship Book” by Gen and Kelly Tanabe for an unbelievable list of scholarships available to you.
- Local scholarships. Check out your high school’s website for information on local businesses, churches and sports organizations offering scholarships. While none of them offer full rides, the generous $500 to $1000 scholarships add up quickly and cover things like books, housing and travel expenses that merit scholarships don’t cover.
- Sport scholarships. Only 2 percent of high school athletes are offered some form of athletic scholarship and the opportunity to compete in college. Some athletes seek less popular sports such as bowling or rugby, hoping for a smaller pool of scholarship contenders. Be aware that some small, private colleges do not offer athletic scholarships at all.
- Get a summer and on-campus job. If a student works 20 hours at $7.25 per hour, they will gross $145 a week. Even after minimal taxes, that is more than $5,000 per year.
- Consider joining a public service program. AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, National Health Service Corps or ROTC often offer college scholarships, reduced loans or deferred loans in exchange for service.
- Consider community colleges. They offer a lot of great college savings. Classes are available during the day or evening, so you can work full or part time. Because the school is local, students can live at home to save on room and board. The cost of classes, many of which transfer to a four-year school, are much less per credit hour.
- Employer reimbursement programs. If you are going to work while in college, consider working for a company who offers a tuition reimbursement program. UPS, Starbucks and Verizon are just a few of the companies that offer tuition reimbursement to full and part-time employees. The average assistance is $5,250 per year.
- College employees and their children get discounts on their college education. Please note, this is not available for a part-time student position in the book store. This is for regular staff such as professors, the bursar office team and maintenance crew members. Full-time employees and their children are usually offered a discount for tuition only, but since you most likely live within driving distance, you will also save on room and board.
- Try to graduate sooner. Take summer and online classes at your community college. You can also take an extra class or two each semester to boost your credits and complete your requirements early. By graduating early, you will save on room and board – an average of $10,000.
- Book options. Books are crazy expensive. Don’t fall for the convenience of the college book store. Get your class syllabus and determine the best option for buying books. Look online at Amazon, consider used books, share with a roommate or rent the books for half the price. Try looking at local used book stores and eBay to get the most bang for your buck.
Pam Molnar is the mother of one college student and two high school students. With the rising cost of education, she is always on the lookout for ways to save on college tuition.