Updated: Jan 19, 2020
If you are like me, with kids quickly approaching their college years, you have probably Googled "average cost of college." And, like me, your jaw likely hit the keyboard as you responded with a combination of shock, confusion and hopelessness about how you will ever pay for such an expensive "product." With three children headed to college in the next 5 years, our family's investment will well exceed what we paid for our home. It will be the biggest investment we have ever made.
How will we possibly cover the cost for one -- yet alone multiple - college degrees? The two most obvious answers to our dilemma seem to be scholarships and loans. While we will certainly seek out every scholarship opportunity available, we still expect to come in far below the needed budget of $9,000-$31,000 per year. And did I mention that's just for tuition and fees?
Loans have become the go-to answer for most students and their families, but we don't want to handicap our kids with loan payments they'll struggle to make and that will impede their journey into independent adulthood. In other words, our goal for them does not include finishing college and moving back into our basement!
We are considering some more creative options to fund our investment. Here are a few you might consider as well.
1. Take advantage of your local community college. Tuition and fees are much lower, and some even offer FREE college classes. Some states (currently only Tennessee and soon Oregon) offer 2 free years of community college. By earning an associate's degree before transferring to a 4 year university you can cut your college bills in half!
2 Enroll your child in dual credit courses in high school. These courses allow high school juniors and seniors to enroll in college level classes and simultaneously earn both high school and college credits. By reducing the number of credit hours your child needs to earn their degree, you (and they) will save both time and money.
3. Clep out. Did you know that doing well on a CLEP exam can earn your child the same amount of credit that they'd get if they took a college course covering the same material? Currently, 2,900 colleges and universities grant credit for CLEP. Find out more http://clep.collegeboard.org
4. Choose the right major (and school) the first time. If your child can avoid changing majors and/or schools, they CAN beat the odds and graduate in 4 years or less; saving thousands of dollars on extra semesters/years needed.