The skyrocketing cost of a college education has given many a parent a sleepless night or two — and it’s no wonder. The figures are staggering as prices only continue escalating.
According to Forbes Magazine, the average cost of a four-year degree nationwide in the 2014-15 school year was $22,598 for out-of-state students, and $9,139 for in-state students. Tuition at private universities checked in at around $31,231 a year.
Planning and saving for college is a daunting prospect for any parent, but there are many ways that college can become affordable for students of every demographic and socio-economic level.
Many families are choosing a 529 Savings Plan. Named in 1996 after Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code, 529 is an education savings plan managed by a state or educational institution with the primary goal of helping families save funds for future college expenses.
Websites such as savingforcollege.com provide handy tools for parents and students to check which individual schools meet the guidelines for 529 plans.
Besides the 529 Savings Plan, there are other avenues for parents and students to secure funding for a four-year college degree. Submitting a FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is usually the first step towards college affordability for most. It allows the student to be considered for the greatest amount of financial aid from a variety of sources; federal, state, college and private, as well as the numerous forms of assistance; grants, work-study jobs, loans, internships and scholarships.
Also consider Sallie Mae, a student loan company with over 40 years experience in education, dedicated to providing much-needed funding for parents with a variety of tools and programs.
Shannon Shank, senior director for Enterprise Application Services/Information Technology at Mount Saint Mary’s University, Los Angeles, has found herself in a unique situation as a university employee. Her affiliation with Mount Saint Mary’s has allowed her son Journey, a student at Crescenta Valley High School, to take part in the Tuition Exchange Program, which is available to many who work in a number of schools across the country. According to their website, Tuition Exchange bills itself as “a reciprocal scholarship opportunity for the dependents of eligible faculty and staff at 660 member schools.”
While this program does not guarantee aid or admission to any particular school and the amount of aid awarded depends upon certain factors, such as each school’s enrollment numbers, it is an amazing benefit that can assist families with the high costs of a four-year degree.
Shank feels this particular program is an excellent way for Journey to secure the much-needed funding.
“Some schools do 100 percent tuition, some do 80 percent tuition, but the catch is that the school has to be sending out the amount of students they take in. The goal is balance and each institution is different.”
Shank feels it’s important to note that, “It’s not a guarantee. The school he applies to has to accept him.”
Fastweb is another popular website providing invaluable information on scholarships. It’s a clearinghouse of sorts with info on a wide variety of available scholarships and funding. In addition to the numerous websites dedicated to the application and financing of a college degree, many parents view their child’s relationship with his or her guidance counselor as an important primary resource for navigating the formidable process.
Renee Cummings, whose son Ryan was accepted at Western New Mexico University, believes Ryan’s counselor helped to significantly alleviate the stress she and her family experienced.
“I would say the counselor was a great source,” Cummings said. “She not only made sure everything was submitted on time, but also helped with questions that he may have had along the way.”
Regardless of which avenue you pursue to secure funding for your child’s college education, allow the many resources available on the Internet, as well as any assistance your child’s high school and potential university provides, to help you find what you need.
In time, you’ll learn that a college degree is not only attainable but affordable for most families.