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Plan for College Tuition and Expenses

Receipt showing college costs

This far into the college planning process, you and your child most likely already have decided how you will pay for the bulk of his or her college needs. Now is the time to search for alternative options for offsetting the high costs of the classroom and necessary materials.

Adjust Your FAFSA
You probably already have completed and submitted the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The government uses this application 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 (e.g., job loss, medical emergency, or death of an income-earning parent) that might change your child’s eligibility.

Search for Scholarships
Your child should seek scholarships and grants as soon as possible. They 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 in your local community for opportunities as well, such as local businesses, churches or organizations such as Rotary International or Kiwanis International.
  • Finally, make sure your student meets the application 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.

In 2013, seven in 10 students who graduated from college shouldered an average debt of $28,400 in student loans according to 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 his or her 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.
  • Also, remind your child that educational loan money should be used only for school-related expenses.

Judge a Book by its Cover
Buying new textbooks at the campus bookstore will run up a steep tab—easily exceeding $100 each. Your teen should try buying used texts, but to do so, he or she should make the bookstore the first stop when arriving on campus, not the last, before classes start.

  • 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 Amazon.comeBay® and efollet®.com.
  • Your child also could rent books from online sites such as Chegg®.com and BookRenter.comTM.
  • It’s also a good idea to check with the college to see whether it has a rental program or uses electronic textbooks.

Tech Requirements
Before spending money on all of the latest tech gadgets, you and your son or daughter should:

  • Check if his or her school requires a laptop, a tablet or any other educational gear.
  • 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 hand-held wireless device known as a clicker for in-class participation.
  • If your child already has a computer, he or she should visit the campus bookstore for student discounts on word-processing software or other programs he or she needs for typing papers, searching the Internet or homework.

[Any reference to a specific company, commercial product, process or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement or recommendation by www.smartaboutmoney.org.]

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