How to Make College more Affordable

College is becoming an expensive luxury for many families. It isn’t only tuition costs and student loans which feature in news reports that can shock, but also the expected family contribution which can hit families hard. Each family is expected to contribute to their child’s education and many are struggling to meet the costs. There are some ways in which families can make college more affordable and have more opportunity of securing needed grants.

A report published by the revealed that students who fall into the top 25% of courses applicants are likely to receive more institutional aid, as the colleges try to attract the best students. Thus, the optimum way to make college more affordable is for the student to excel and graduate high school with excellent grades. Students who are sought after should decide on their first choice college and also apply to competing colleges. This increases their chances of receiving more generous grant aid from their first choice college.

Another advantage of excelling as a student is the greater opportunity of qualifying for a scholarship. There are many outside scholarships available, in addition to specific school scholarships which cater for academic, musical, athletic, and other talents. Many top colleges have now replaced all merit scholarships with needs-based awards, but students still need to be excellent candidates academically to be considered.

Both parental and student savings are taken into consideration when the expected family contribution is assessed. Students who work hard to save up prior to college will then discover that they are expected to contribute a portion of their savings each academic year. To lower this requirement, yet still retain the savings, they can be given to a non parental trusted family member to hold, who can then give the savings back to help with costs. The same principle can be applied to parental savings, though retirement savings are protected.

If a family has two children in close age proximity then their contribution will decrease when both children are in college, because colleges take into account sibling educational expenses. It may be worth the older child deferring college so that both children can attend at the same time, to decrease overall costs.

Student loan forgiveness is often spoken of, but may be hard to qualify for and is an uncertain hope. However, some states now offer to pay a proportion of the costs of attending college if the student agrees to work in state in a specified area after graduating and qualifying. Rather than chancing the loan being forgiven after the event, these state programs pay in advance. It is worth exploring this option by making in state inquiries. Opportunities are most usually in the areas of teaching, nursing and medical fields.  

Students can of course help to pay their way through college by working part time. Students who qualify for financial aid should receive federal work study as part of their financial aid package, which is non taxable. Job opportunities are also made available to students who do not qualify for federal work study, but the tax situation should be checked, particularly if the student is also earning through the vacations.

With tuition, fees and living costs as high as they are, it is important to try to make college more affordable, and avoid excessive borrowing. One thing stands out though, and that is the more the student excels, the more opportunity they have of attracting grants, scholarships and even offers from the top colleges which provide the most generous institutional aid.