In the ideal situation, saving for your child’s college expenses and tuition began when they were quite young and has built up over the years. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way for a variety of reasons. So what to do now that your child is entering their junior or senior year and you don’t have enough to send them to college?
Don’t panic, there are still methods you can use to help them afford the college experience. Your child hasn’t taken college level Economics 101 yet, but she will soon learn there are two ways to increase your liquid money: either bring in more money, or reduce your expenses.
Adding Extra Income
Your student should apply for as many scholarships and grants as possible. Unfortunately, most students don't qualify for a full scholarship. Now is the time to knuckle down and figure out a few ways to save a substantial amount of money in a short time period to avoid the dreaded choice of your child taking a year off from school to work before going to university or borrowing outside of your means.
Some people may have the option of either taking a second job in the evening or working overtime hours at their current job. This is perhaps the simplest, although not the easiest, way to bring in extra money quickly for the short term. A more valid option would be if the parents are together and one works as a homemaker that the stay at home parent take on a part time job to increase the family’s cash flow.
To deal with the added stress of the long hours, you just have to remind yourself that it’s only a temporary situation. Don’t look back at what you could have done to prepare better; instead focus on how this is in the best interest for providing your child the tools she needs to approach life as an adult successfully.
Of course, this is assuming your child is working as well. School may be her full time job, but she can work an age appropriate part time job on the weekend or perhaps an afternoon or early evening during the week. This can be a great opportunity to teach her what she doesn’t learn at school about how to responsibly manage her own money as you set rules about what she will be expected to pay for once she starts higher education.
Reducing the Costs of College Expenses
Taking AP or early enrollment classes for early college credit can shorten the length of time spent at college. Over the Junior and Senior high school years a student can usually take enough college level classes to eliminate a semester. Consider that although it varies depending on degree, a typical college career degree takes 8 semesters to attain, so it’s a quick way to cut 12.5% of the total costs from your budget.
Attending a local community college and taking transfer courses is another way to eliminate expenses. Not only is the college less expensive, but in many cases the student can eliminate the additional expense of living on her own in either a dormitory or apartment. This plan does eliminate the social aspect of college life to some extent, but that sacrifice is a much better option than simply not attending. This option further allows the student to continue working at her part time job from high school, bringing in her own money to help with the expenses and begin her own savings.
Some people may have an acceptable university close enough that their child can attend while still living at home. Again, part of the college experience is that your child becomes an adult, living on her own and managing school and work with her social life, but again, it’s a better option than not attending. Just remember, if you and your child decide on this plan, she is still a young adult and needs to start learning how to behave as one. She deserves a bit of freedom from the rules and curfews of high school. This is the age when many children move out of the house, eliminating any parental rules concerning their lifestyle, and they turn out to be just fine as adults.
In this day and age it is essential to attend college to assure a good, consistent career. College is not the cliché of going off to party for a few years before joining the work force. It provides the skills needed to pursue a successful adult life. By all means, encourage your child to go and help her with college expenses however you can but remember, pay what you can with "free money" such as grants and scholarships, borrow responsibly and only if you have too, and have fun!