Three Ways to Cut The Cost of College

by Dr. Dean Skarlis on May 15, 2012

With the cost of college reaching $60,000/year at some schools next year, finances are on every parent’s mind.  To reduce what you pay for college, here are three factors to consider:

1. Scholarships for B students: Even if your child is not an A student, he or she can get scholarships. The trick is to figure out which colleges want your child. Maybe they want or need athletes (even Division 3).  Perhaps they’re looking for musicians, or a pep band participant. With a sport such as cross country, go to the athletics page on the school’s website and compare your child’s performance to posted statistics. It gets more difficult with a sport like baseball, but that’s where a coach can help you understand which schools might need you. Know who wants your child in terms of academics by looking at the college’s average grades and understanding where your child fits in. Some schools offer tuition discounting to try to entice certain students to enroll.

2. Understand early whether you’ll qualify for need-based financial aid, and get a sense for how much. By early, I mean when your child is a high school sophomore. As long as you understand affordability early in the process, you will know what the bill will be and can possibly restrict the list of schools to a certain segment. Go to collegeboard.com to find a calculator. Search under “college planning” and then “pay for college.”  Keep in mind that different schools calculate your ability to pay differently.  For example, some colleges assess your net home equity in their formula, and others do not.  Some schools provide a larger allowance for certain assets, and others do not.  If you take time to examine this issue early enough, you can implement strategies to qualify for more financial aid. 

3. There are hidden gems. Kiplinger, a publisher of business forecasts and personal finance advice, compiles a list of best college values. One is SUNY Geneseo, another is Binghamton.  Siena can be a great value for the right student.  And Hartwick College offers a three-year degree program, which can cut the cost of college by 25 percent.  But there are hundreds of other gems out there that you probably have never heard of.  Don’t presume that a public college will be your least expensive option.  This is often not the case.  Consider consulting with a college advisor to help you identify which schools will be a good fit for your child.

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