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Plan for College Tuition and Expenses

Receipt showing college costs

If your child is preparing to head off to college, then you likely have a plan to pay for the bulk of college tuition. Now is the time to search for alternative options for offsetting the high costs of classroom materials and living costs.

Adjust Your FAFSA

You may already have submitted the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which opens annually on October 1 for the following school year. The government uses the FAFSA to determine a student’s financial need and the estimated parents’ contribution.

Regardless of whether your child secures federal financial aid, he or she should file an appeal if there’s a change in your family’s situation such as a job loss, medical emergency or death of an income-earning parent that might change your child’s eligibility.

Search for Scholarships

Scholarships and grants often are awarded based on need, academic merit, athletic or musical talent or participation in an organization.

  • Remember they often are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Check your local businesses, churches or organizations such as Rotary International or Kiwanis International.
  • Finally, make sure your student meets the eligibility requirements and deadlines.

Avoid the Debt Trap

Loans should be a last resort. Although a loan represents an investment in your child’s future, it also creates debt. That motivates most parents and students to go for scholarship money first. It’s a strategy that makes sense in the long run.

Get the latest data on student loan debt in your state from The Project on Student Debt, an initiative of the nonprofit Institute for College Access and Success.

If your child does opt for a loan:

  • Make sure he or she does their research. Government loans, such as the federal Stafford loan, often offer lower interest rates and fees than private loans offered by banks and credit unions.
  • Remind your child that educational loan money should be used only for college tuition and school-related expenses.

Judge a Book by its Cover

Buying new textbooks at the campus bookstore will run up a steep tab. Your teen should look for used texts and linvestigate rentals and e-textbooks.

  • Get the course syllabus or any information that details textbook requirements for the fall semester during the summer months.
  • Look online for book deals at sites such as AmazoneBay and Eefollet.
  • Check if the school has a book rental program or uses electronic textbooks.

Tech Requirements

Before spending money on all of the latest tech gadgets:

  • Check if his or her school requires a laptop, tablet or other educational technology.
  • Review your child’s syllabus and determine whether your teen is taking a math, science or photography class that might warrant an expensive calculator, circuit board or camera.
  • Inquire whether any of his or her classes requires a handheld wireless device known as a clicker for in-class participation.
  • If your child already has a computer, visit the campus bookstore or the software developer's website for student discounts on software.

[Any reference to a specific company, commercial product, process or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement or recommendation by the National Endowment for Financial Education.]