Budget Strategies to Pay for College in 2013

Parents and students searching for ways to lower costs, time and expenses toward college should explore these simple tips:

1. Community colleges offer transfer agreements of up to 60 credits which would apply toward a four year degree. Community colleges also offer two year technical degrees that license a student in immediate areas of employment upon completion. Transfer agreements can reduce the cost of a four year degree by 50% or more.

2. Community colleges are more affordable when completing the first two years of school locally before transferring to a four year college. Transfer students save money and valuable time in obtaining a four year degree. Saving money on room and board by living at home can help to cover the costs needed to finish a four year degree. Most universities will accept transfer credits by applying them as general credits before a major is chosen.

3. Look for early colleges located on campuses of a partnering higher educational institution. As an alternative to public high school, early colleges accelerate the academic progress of students. The goal is to prepare them for college.

4. Utilize in state tuition status when looking to transfer to a four year college. In state tuition to all public universities is significantly less expensive then out of state tuition. Establish residency first in the state the college is located in before applying for acceptance. Create a P.O box or rent an apartment and work full time while waiting one year to establish residency.

5. Become independent for tax purposes which eliminate parents claiming students on their tax return. In one year the student can then apply for government student loans and become eligible for grants, scholarships, tuition advantage programs are available to help students save money on their education. Lowering the burden on parents and even qualifying for food stamps are all options to consider when pursuing a four year degree.

6. Utilize the knowledge of advisors that provide advice and direction making sure students maximize the transfer system correctly. Take only the courses needed for specific degrees. Reduce mistakes or changes in a major by clarifying with an advisor exactly what degree the student expects to receive. Avoid costly withdrawals from a class and keep a close on student progress and successful completion of all classes paid for. Withdrawing or retaking a class is not only costly, but eligibility in government financial aid is determined by completion of classes. Academic probation and the failing of classes can lead to the loss of government loans.

7. Strategize and prepare a plan well in advance of taking classes that cost money and time. Some students fail to finish in four years because they do not apply themselves or switch majors. While it is customary for students to take four classes each semester, a hard working ambitious student can take five or six classes at a time. With no additional financial cost a full time student can finish a four year degree in three years. Students graduating sooner can move on to graduate school and receive a master’s degree for their hard work and time.

8. Parents should have a financial plan and budget in place, instead of simply depositing funds in an account. Students can work part time and embrace a budget that encourages financial management. Ask questions such as who pays for what and how do we plan on communicating the handling of money? What happens if money runs out or additional funds are needed for tuition, room and board, food or other expenses? Who is managing the money and allocating funds to each expense?

9. Finally consider starting a savings plan now. Students can save in advance of college just like parents can. Working part time while finishing high school is always an option. Consider a 529 plan named after section 529 of the Internal Revenue code which pays for college in the state you live in.

By Randy Russotti