The cost of college is astronomical and completely out of control, and there is no sign on the horizon that this will change anytime soon. Many studies show that the cost of college tuition is continuing to out pace inflation and the increases are seemingly endless. I'm not saying don't go to college.
I'm saying go to college smart!!
Just as the rich rule over the poor, so is the borrower slave to the lender. Proverbs 22:7.
The student loan debt is astronomical and I'm trying to figure out, where is the outrage? Where are the plans to reverse this? I have some tips that will help you eliminate this gap. Read on.
In 2013 my daughter was graduating from High School and we had no savings for her college. With a little bit of foresight in mind, I told her early on in her Sophomore and Junior year that she could either get scholarships that would help us pay and attend an state 4 year school, or she had to go to a community college for her first 2 years. She decided in her Junior year of High School that she wanted to go to a 4 year in state school. Because that was her choice, she went to work on making sure she had good grades that would qualify her for plenty of scholarships, and she relied on Dad to help make it happen. Lucky for her, she was determined to make it work, and she did just that!
What we did:
My daughter received about $8,000 in scholarships for her Freshman year, and then another $5,000 every year after that. My daughter also became a Resident Advisor in her dorm in her Junior and Senior year, and this paid her entire room and board for her last two years. My daughter also worked the front desk in the Honor's College for her final two years and she also worked one weekend a month as a Certified Nursing Assistance (CNA). So overall, she worked 3 jobs, managed her yearly scholarships, and we paid the rest. She graduated in 2017 with her bachelors degree and no debt! I did not want my child starting her life with a mountain of student loans in front of her, or us, so we went to work getting it done debt free. You can do the same thing.
The following tips give you 7 things to do to help offset the ridiculousness that is the current cost of college tuition. Whether its for you, or for your kids, college tuition will break you in half if you aren't careful, and you will find yourself paying off student loans for the next 30 years, or more.
1. Get determined to Pay CASH. I'm serious about this one. If you have no money saved for college, you have to get creative, determined, and focused. It's not impossible and it's not out of the question. It's very doable. You might be wondering how you can do this. My story above, and the other tips below will help illustrate how you can do this. But you have to be real serious about doing this thing debt free, in order to do it debt free. The pressure will be on to borrow here and there, take out loans, and do all the things they want you to do to go in to debt! You have to be ready for what they are going to through at you.
2. Plan early. Assess your financial situation and explain this to your kids about college from Middle School and on through High School. Tell yourself and/or your kids what monies you have and what monies you don't have. Don't fool yourself. Money IS a factor. Figure out your choices based on what money you have, and what money they, or you, can generate. Don't let your 18 year old child dictate how they want to spend your money, and don't get overly excited with the thought that you will pay for college, no matter what it cost. That is a mistake and unrealistic. Don't make it! The sooner you start the conversation and planning, the better off you will be able to execute.
3. Focus on in-state schools, and take all of the expensive out of state schools and private colleges, off the board and out of question. If you have little to no savings for in-state schools, you surely don't have the money to send yourself or your kid to an out of state school. Be realistic with your child and with yourself, and opt for cheaper in-state alternatives to out of state colleges and private schools.
4. Go through college slower, in 8 years instead of 4. If it means no debt, finishing in 8 years
instead of 4 years, won't kill you, hurt you, or mess you up in any kind of way. In the big scheme of things, finishing at the age of 26, as opposed to age 22, won't damage anything significant in the course of your life. Trust me on this!! Taking 2 classes a semester for 8 years, and perhaps a class in the summer, is affordable for most of us reading this. This is a fantastic technique to help you pay for college. This allows you more time to work and earn the extra money, while at the same time cutting the per semester cost of college way down.
5. Live on campus and work for student housing. They will usually cover your room and board and this will greatly reduce your cost. If your child is going off to college, you need to make sure they apply for this job as soon as possible. It teaches responsibility, leadership, and work ethic. At the same time it can usually cut the cost of college in half. The compensation is amazing and I'm shocked more people don't take advantage of this. If you are an adult student, not living on campus, attempt to get a job working for the college in some way that puts you in position to have them pay a portion of your college tuition.
6. Work work work. Get jobs to pay cash for college. People have been working and going to school forever. You can too. If my daughter can juggle 3 part time jobs in college, so can you. Where there is a will, we all know there is a way. The beautiful thing about your child when they are away at college, is that they have lots of TIME. Despite what they tell you, if they have time to party and prepare for a step show, hang with friends, and go to the football and basketball games, then they have time to work! This whole idea that full time college students shouldn't be working is a farce. Don't fall for it.
7. Attend a Community College. This one should have been at the top of the list. Community Colleges are a fraction of the cost and those 60 credit hours mean the exact same thing as the 60 credit hours at the high priced college you are thinking about attending for the first 2 years. Community Colleges are cheap!!! There are programs that will allow your high schooler to go to community colleges for free. Why more people don't take advantage of Community Colleges is completely baffling to me. I cannot understand the fascination with a college that costs 20 times more than it's alternative, and yet everyone passes up on the cheaper alternative. ONLY IN AMERICA! If you really believe that your Freshman and Sophomore year in college is more valuable if you go to a 4 year school, then I'm not sure anything in this post can help you. I've never had an employer, or anyone for that matter, penalize me for attending a community college for the first 2 years. If you say, "I want the on campus experience", well, be prepared to pay the additional "on campus costs" for the next 20 years. I'm not interested in paying for on campus experiences because I know what those experiences often times entail. Be smart and cut college cost in half by attending a local community college. You can thank me later.
Going to college debt free is possible. It can be done and it should be a very serious consideration for each of us. Our insistence on paying these astronomical fees for college is one aspect that keeps the tuition's rising. There are many factors, but we need to be more strategic, prepared, and determined to pay cash.
Stay away from the bondage of student loans. Your child can make it through college without loans with a little extra focus and determination. The beauty is that we are a resilient, creative, and determined people that know how to use ingenuity to make things happen. If you have to take on a second and third job, or create a job (that's another blog post), then do it. If you or your child have to go slower, attend a community college, pre-plan, get scholarships, or work extra jobs, to pay cash, then you can do these things to! It's worth it.