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!)