Paying for College in a Down Economy

 iStock_5041073 (Graduating pig)

By Rebekah Johnson Now, more than ever, there is an incredible amount of pressure on young people to graduate from college.  Employers are demanding an educated workforce that is willing to compete globally.  To give students the best advantage, we want them to attend college – but in a tough economy, one or more parents may have lost a job or taken a severe pay cut.

However, despite the down economy, there are several ways parents and teens can work together to save for college without taking out a second mortgage or losing the house.

1.  Consider community college.  First, if you have a brand new high school graduate, look for local community colleges in your area.  Many community colleges offer courses in a number of disciplines for any major.  This will help the undecided students find their niche, and help those degree-driven students achieve their two years of their bachelor’s degree at nearly a third of the cost.

2.  Apply for scholarships.  Search online, inquire at work, and at your local school.  Fastweb.com is a great site to search for scholarships that your teen may be eligible for.  Many employers have scholarships for their employees’ children or dependents, and most high schools offer scholarships for their graduates.  In addition, most colleges offer scholarships for prospective students based on academic record, involvement in sports, leadership, or other skills.  Even by earning several small scholarships, students can combine them to pay for a majority of their tuition, if not all of it.

3.  Fill out the FAFSA form (www.fafsa.gov).  Completing the form online is the only way to see if your student could be eligible for government financial aid or work study.  It’s a lengthy form, but completely worth the effort for subsidized government loans, grants from the government, or assistance from the academic institution.  Without filling out this information, it is extremely difficult to get the financial help that could help your student go to college.

4.  Get a part-time job.  Sometimes “working your way through college” just works.  By getting a part-time or work study job during college, your student will earn cash to pay bills but also teach time management skills.  Working his way through college will help your student value and appreciate their own investment in their education and future.

The college process is a long one and requires commitment and hard work from both parents and teens.  Easing the financial burden on both parties will make the college years easier and much less stressful.