Money Health

How to Pay Less for College—What You Need to Know

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It’s no secret that student loan debt is at an all-time high. In fact, the total amount of outstanding student loans in the U.S. is more than $1.6 trillion. If you have a child nearing college age, you may be wondering how you can help them pay for college and minimize the amount of loans they’ll have to take. To assist you, we’ve put together some tips on how to pay less for college so you can help your child prepare financially for this next chapter.

Look at in-state schools

To begin with, an in-state school will almost always be less expensive than an out-of-state school. For example, if you live in Michigan and your child attends University of Michigan, their tuition will be around $15,558 per year. On the other hand, if you live in California and your child chooses the same school, they’ll have to dish out $51,200.

Some schools cap out-of-state tuition so that it’s not so much more expensive than in-state. For example, schools who participate in the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) cap out-of-state tuition at 150% of in-state tuition. So, if your child does want to go to college out-of-state, it could help to look at WUE schools and others who have similar limits.

Consider community colleges

Many people who have wondered how to pay less for college have ultimately turned to community colleges. Community colleges are far more affordable than four-year colleges and universities. So, you may want to encourage your child to start at a community college and eventually transfer to the college or university of their choice.

Community college provides an extra benefit if your child wants to attend an out-of-state university. Going to a community college in that same state would give them the opportunity to gain residency there so they could qualify for in-state tuition when they transfer to their desired university.

Apply for scholarships, grants, and tuition waivers

It’s so important to keep in mind that student loans aren’t the only assistance available for students and their families. While applying for scholarships, grants, and tuition waivers takes time and effort, it almost always pays off.

Also, less well-known schools may give better financial aid packages to attract good students. So, to help minimize your out-of-pocket costs, you could suggest that your child consider alternatives to expensive schools unless they can land scholarships for most of the cost.

Look for jobs that offer tuition reimbursement

Of course, your child can help carry some of the financial weight of college as well. Fortunately, some companies reimburse their employees for attending college. If you believe your child can juggle a job and college at the same time, encourage them to do some research and find jobs that offer partial or full tuition reimbursement.

Start a 529 savings account

Although it’s better to start a 529 college savings account when your child is young, there are still benefits to starting one even if your child is older. Not only do 529 plans come with federal tax-free growth and withdrawals for education-related expenses, your state may also offer a partial or full tax deduction.

As you explore these options, consider involving your child. Including them in the process of figuring out how to pay less for college should help reinforce how valuable it is, and could help them learn important financial skills. That way, if they end up taking on some student loans, they’ll be all the more prepared to handle them successfully.

Improve your money management skills

A crucial part of saving for your child’s college education is getting a better handle on your finances today. Luckily, learning how to deal with debt, money, and planning for your and your child’s future doesn’t need to be hard. At Freedom Debt Relief, we’ve developed a simple to follow guide to help you find the tools you need to move to a better financial future. Get started by downloading our free guide right now.

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Anna Baluch is a freelance writer who enjoys writing about all personal finance topics. She’s particularly interested in mortgages, retirement, insurance, and investing.