If you have a junior or senior in high school, then you know it is that time of year to start thinking about college visits, SAT prep, graduation, and how the heck to pay for everything. If you are a parent of a freshman or sophomore, then you are just watching the plethora of school texts, reminds, and emails about the upper classmen, and preparing for what is on your horizon. But don’t fret. Regardless of your child’s age, there are many options for funding college.

(We will go into depth on Florida Prepaid, ESA, UTMAs, 529s in next month’s blog post)

With the average annual in-state university cost at just over $20,000 and out-of-state at $43,000, college may seem like a daunting venture. At Allgen, our goal is for you to fund college without dipping into retirement funds, home equity lines, or taking out student loans. If you creatively mix and match just right and choose your school wisely, going to college can be affordable.

While in High School

Dual Enrollment – Many high schools offer college-level courses while still attending high school. Some of the classes are offered on campus while others may be on the college’s campus. The student can gain up to 2 years of coursework by the time they graduate from high school. They can theoretically graduate high school with an associate degree!
1. These are at no cost to the student
2. This reduces the number of college courses that need to be paid for by up to 2 years!

AP Courses – Having AP courses on your transcript not only helps your GPA (assuming good grades). It allows you to test out of those collegiate courses, thus saving money by not having to take them in college.

FAFSAFree Application for Financial Student Aid
FAFSA is used to qualify for practically all forms of needs-based financial aid, such as grants and loans. If you think your income is too high for FAFSA, think again. Harvard has raised its need-based scholarships to incomes of $180,000. Plus there is another use for FAFSA: Scholarships! Many universities use FAFSA for their own merit-based scholarships.

Timing is EVERYTHING! While you technically have between Oct 1st through Jun 30th to complete this, most aid is awarded on a first come, first served basis. According to Saving For College, students who file the FAFSA early (within the first three months) on average receive twice the amount of grant money as do students who file later.

*Keep in mind that much of the ‘aid’ provided to students is in the form of loans. In order to keep from taking on debt, let’s look at our next solution: Scholarships.

 Scholarships – this is money you don’t have to pay back!

It is worth looking into even if you don’t think your student excels in any one specific area. From ‘Unigo Zombie Apocalypse’ (yes, it’s a scholarship) to ‘Make it with Wool’ (sewing), there really is something for everyone. Here are some great sites to uncover numerous scholarships:

In Florida, we have the Bright Futures Scholarship – Based on academics, this can be part of the funding package for many Florida students. Additionally, if your child graduates from an IB program, they are automatically awarded the highest level of scholarship. Bright Futures Details

Choose your College Wisely

1. Top 25% – Apply to a few schools where you will be in the top 25% of student body. There is a good chance they will lure you with merit aid. You can check their website to find student profiles.
2. Look for merit scholarships. Search the college’s website, or sites like Meritaid.com, to see if there are any specific merit scholarships for which you might qualify (band, track, etc.).
3. Compare Net Prices – Just because one school offers more aid, doesn’t mean the overall price is lower. Subtract scholarships/grants from total price to compare apples to apples.
4. Negotiate – If your first choice has a higher net price than others you’ve been accepted to, see if they can provide more merit aid to bring overall price in line with their competitors. They typically will only do this if they deem the competing school to be equal or better.

Attend Community College – (now called 4-Year College)

The average cost of Florida public university tuition is $8,800 [total cost is $20,800 ($8,800 tuition + $12,000 room/board/misc)]. The average cost of community college tuition is $4,000. Going this route could save a total of $33,000 over 2 years which can then be applied to the last 2 years at University!

Additional Options

The Working Student

Many students find that having a job forces them to focus more on school.

Undergraduate students who work part-time in college (up to 20 hours per week)
have higher GPAs than students who don’t work at all2

Not only do they take their studies more seriously if they are on the hook for part of the price tag, but they are learning valuable skills such as time management, work ethic, and money management. Not to mention that it looks good on a resume and may create a network for their future career.

Military

Serve your country while gaining valuable career knowledge and free tuition. This is a great option for someone who is not quite ready for college or sure exactly what career to pursue. Once enlisted, you have access to the GI Bill, which will pay for 36 months-worth of education. This can be used for yourself or you can pass it onto your children. GI Bill Details

Summary

There are many options available to make college an attainable and affordable path without leaving parents or children with the burden of debts in the end. We are here to help you decide which options may be best for your family. We invite you to stay connected to our “Money Minute” and “Money Brews” video series and blogs to guide you on your path to financial freedom. You can find us via www.allgenfinancial.com, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Sound Cloud, and YouTube.

2Bureau of Labor Statistics

Written by Teresa Talton, CFP® Professional with Allgen Financial Advisors, Inc.

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