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9 Ways to Stretch College Savings


Guest post Bronwyn:

While I don’t believe that a college education is necessary in order to be successful in life, I am so grateful to my parents for paying for mine. This not only enabled me to get a great job, but also to begin my young adult life without student loan debt looming over me.

My husband and I would love to be able to give our daughter this same gift one day, and so we began contributing to a college fund for her shortly after she was born.

We have also been brainstorming ways to stretch our carefully saved dollars, and came up with the following ideas:

1. Make sure your money is working for you

If you were to save $100 per month in a checking account earning 0% interest, you would have $21,600 after 18 years. If you invested this same $100 per month and earned 5% per annum on your investment, you would have $35,000 at the end of 18 years.

Also, consider taking advantage of the tax savings associated with a 529 plan or an Education Savings Account.

2. Help them determine what she wants to be when she grows up

Switching majors can be expensive, so having discussions about various careers from a young age can end up saving a lot of money. Internships, job shadowing, or even chatting to people in various lines of work can also help clarify whether certain paths would be a good fit for her natural abilities and personality.

3. Choose college carefully

While graduating from a “name-brand” college may sometimes increase earnings potential and employment opportunities, this is not always the case. Have your child reach out to the colleges you are considering, and ask about job fairs and internship programs, and which companies typically participate. Also inquire of companies she may be interested in working for to determine which colleges they recruit from.

Doing this type of homework upfront will help you determine whether a more expensive college is likely to yield a return on the additional investment.

4. Stay in-state

In-state tuition is typically much lower than out-of-state tuition, so attending a college within your home state could really help to stretch those college dollars.

5. Consider taking foundation classes at a community college

Community college classes can be significantly cheaper than the equivalent classes at a state school. Just do your research beforehand to make sure that your credits will transfer.

6. Take AP classes

While there is a fee associated with taking AP exams, it’s a fraction of the cost of taking the equivalent college courses. Different colleges, and even various departments within the same college, may have different policies related to giving credits for AP classes, so again be sure to do your research before deciding which ones to sign up for.

7. Apply for scholarships

Investing some time in completing scholarship applications can result in a worthwhile return. Your high school guidance counsellor, college websites, and even google searches should provide numerous merit and need-based scholarships for which you can apply.

8. If possible, live at home

Room and board can add a substantial amount to already high tuition costs. Living at home while studying can yield significant savings.

9. Work to supplement college savings

Most people I know (myself included) worked at least part time while studying.

This not only contributed to covering the cost of education, it also provided work experience to include on a resume. This can be especially beneficial if you are able to secure an internship or entry level position in your field of study.

I would love to know if any readers have additional suggestions for stretching college dollars.

Bronwyn is a part-time bean-counter, full-time penny-pincher, wife, and mom to the world’s most adorable toddler (she may also be a little biased!)

photo source

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  • Stephanie says:

    I started at the local two year planning to keep a high GPA for a seamless transition to the state flagship school (the state 2 and 4 year schools had a transfer agreement) but it was cheaper for me to attend a “name”private four year out of state as a transfer due to financial aid. If you have good grades check out private/out of state options too- the endowments can be impressive and that can mean more money for you.

  • Kathy says:

    Look into dual credit classes as a high schooler. It costs but it is easier to take them while living at home and get some credits out of the way plus if you can kill two birds with one stone. Why not.

  • Kaylea says:

    Make sure that you apply for financial aid from all sources — and if the financial aid the college offers you does not meet your needs, appeal it with more information about why it doesn’t work. Think of the posted tuition as the sticker price….negotiate, shop around, and price match!

    If you’re offered loans but don’t want to go into debt, share this with the financial aid office and see if you can qualify for work-study funding instead. Alternately, look at loan forgiveness programs for the fields that interest you.

    Educate yourself about the tax laws and keep the documentation you need to get a better refund.

  • Lori in NY says:

    The way we are saving money on college costs is simple and inexpensive! Since we know our son’s end-point college accepts credit from CLEPs/DSSTs/ACE, we set up a plan to accumulate credits that way. For CLEP & DSST, you create a self-study plan and when you are ready, take the test to earn 3-12 credits for the cost of one credit (or less) at the average community college!! There also resources for ACE credit like ($25 for a 3 credit class!),,, or (our next favorite as it uses short videos). More than 2,000 colleges and universities consider ACE credit recommendations in determining the applicability to their schools’ course and degree programs. Plus there are MANY online colleges that offer regionally accredited classes (the best kind) to earn college credit much cheaper than an average class. We’ve been on this journey for over a year with our son, and he’s earned credit for several classes this way. We expect him to graduate from one of the top 3 online colleges with a Bachelor’s degree that will cost under $10,000!! 😀

  • Shreyl says:

    Life is a constant juggling act. Every day we juggle tasks, time, people and goals. This is especially true when it comes to balancing financial goals, whereby time is not the scarce resource, but money is. The future can seem especially daunting for young families balancing retirement funding goals and college planning for their children. When a dollar can only stretch so far, how can you effectively plan for both?

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