Financial Planning

Think You Can’t Afford College? Think Again

By  Max Marvelous

Disclaimer: To make Wealthtender free for our readers, we earn money from advertisers, including financial professionals and firms that pay to be featured. This creates a natural conflict of interest when we favor their promotion over others. Wealthtender is not a client of these financial services providers. Learn how we operate with integrity to earn your trust.

It’s no secret that college is expensive. It can be downright prohibitive for some people. But did you know that there are ways to pay for college even if you don’t have the money?

This article will discuss five different ways to pay for college without breaking the bank. So whether you’re a high school student trying to figure out your future or a parent who wants to give your child the best education possible, read on for some great tips.

And if you’re looking for a helping hand, consider hiring a financial advisor who specializes in college funding. While many financial advisors are knowledgeable on college planning topics, you may want to choose a financial advisor who has earned their Certified College Financial Consultant (CCFC) designation, especially if you have multiple children heading to college in the next several years.

We spoke with financial advisors in the Wealthtender community who share additional tips below.

A History of Tuition Costs

Before we get into how to pay for college, let’s first look at how tuition costs have changed over time. In the United States, the cost of attending college has been on the rise for quite some time. In fact, between 1985 and 2015, the average cost of tuition and fees at a public four-year institution increased by 213%. For private four-year institutions, the increase was 129% over the same period of time.

With numbers like these, it’s no wonder that many people are struggling to come up with the money to pay for college. But don’t despair! There are ways to make college more affordable.

The 529 College Savings Plan

One way to pay for college is to start saving early with a 529 College Savings Plan. A 529 plan is a tax-advantaged savings account that can cover qualified expenses at eligible colleges and universities. Family members or friends typically make contributions to a 529 plan, and the money in the account grows tax-free.

Nathan Mueller, MBA We Help People of All Income Levels Accelerate Their Financial Prosperity!

A tip that I would give parents that are wanting to plan for sending their child to college is to put as much money as you can into a 529 plan, invest it, and do it as early as possible.

I’ll usually give the example of how compounding and the market will work in their favor. The example I give is, let’s say you have 1 yr old and you put in $1000 today over 17 years with an 8% average return which turns into $3750. When they see how their money may triple in value, they get super motivated.

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Nathan Mueller, MBA | Blackbird Finance

Scholarships and Grants

Another way to pay for college is to apply for scholarships and grants. Scholarships are awards of financial aid that do not have to be repaid, while grants are typically need-based awards that also do not have to be repaid. In 2019-2020, prospective college students received an average of $7,626 in grants and scholarships, covering about 25% of their tuition and fees. There are a variety of scholarships and grants available, so it’s essential to do your research and find the ones you qualify for.

One excellent resource for finding scholarships and grants is College Aid Pro. College Aid Pro offers a free tool to help families discover financial aid and scholarship opportunities.

Danielle Miura, CFP® Financial Planning for the Sandwich Generation

Don’t let free money slip away! If your child is attending college this year, complete a FAFSA form to see if they qualify for need-based grants and loans. There are plenty of online resources to apply for need-based and merit-based scholarships.

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Danielle Miura, CFP® | Spark Financials

Work-Study Programs

Another way to pay for college is to participate in a work-study program. Work-study programs are federally funded and provide part-time jobs for eligible students. The money earned through these programs can help cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and other expenses.

To participate in a work-study program, you must first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Once your college awards you financial aid, you will then be able to apply for work-study positions.

Payment Plans

Some colleges and universities offer payment plans that allow students to spread the cost of tuition and fees over the course of the semester or academic year. These plans typically require a small down payment and then monthly payments for the remainder of the balance. Interest is usually charged on the unpaid balance, so it’s essential to be aware of this before signing up for a payment plan.

Attend Community College First

One way to make college more affordable is to attend community college for the first two years and then transfer to a four-year institution. Community colleges typically have lower tuition rates than four-year colleges and universities, which can be a great way to save money.

In addition, many community colleges offer programs that allow students to earn credits that will transfer to four-year institutions. Community college can save you time and money by allowing you to complete your degree in a shorter period of time.

Jay W. Rishel, CFP®️ Providing independent, balanced, and tailored solutions on your terms

If you’re adamant about your child attending a four-year university/college, consider sending them to a local community college (they can live with the parents to save on room & board) for their freshman and sophomore years.

Many community colleges offer university transfer programs that make it seamless to earn an Associate’s degree and then transfer to a four-year school. Students can expect to save upwards of 40% of their expected college costs (2021 average community college tuition and fees is $3,800 according to the College Board).

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Jay W. Rishel, CFP®️ | Overman Capital Management

Utilize All of Your Resources

There are various ways to pay for college, so don’t let the cost deter you from getting the education that you want and deserve. If you’re willing to do your research and put in the work, you can find a way to finance your education without breaking the bank.



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About the Author

Max Marvelous

As a certified credit counselor and syndicated writer at MaxMyMoney, Max has coached over 250 Millennials to help take the stress out of money. When Max is not coaching, you’ll find him reading financial books, indoor cycling, or visiting local pawn shops looking for swiss-made watches.

Disclaimer: To make Wealthtender free for our readers, we earn money from advertisers, including financial professionals and firms that pay to be featured. This creates a natural conflict of interest when we favor their promotion over others. Wealthtender is not a client of these financial services providers. Learn how we operate with integrity to earn your trust.