Are you a high school student or a recent graduate wondering how you will be able to afford your college education? Many things can be done to make college more affordable. Here are a few:
First, if you are still in school, good grades are very important. Good grades and good study habits will allow you to take AP (Advanced Placement) classes while still in high school. AP classes allow you to take a test upon completion and earn college credit for your class – at a much lower cost than you will pay for the same class at even a small community college.
Some high schools offer joint enrollment, where you take classes for credit at a local college, while still enrolled in high school. Although you will be paying college tuition, you will still be living at home and getting some of your college courses out of the way before you even go off to college. It is possible for someone to complete a full college semester or more before they even graduate high school.
Since you actually have to get accepted to college, good grades will give you more choices in schools you can attend. Good grades are the only way to qualify for the HOPE Scholarship, which is probably one of the best ways to make attending a Georgia college more affordable. Before you look at out of state colleges, give consideration to Georgia colleges, where you save money through in-state tuition, and potentially qualify for the HOPE Scholarship. HOPE can cover most, if not all, of your tuition expense. Good grades can also be a factor in obtaining academic scholarships, available through a number of sources.
Try to identify what you really want to do as early as possible. So many students waste money and time changing majors, or worse, drop out of school due to a lack of focus and direction. Use your high school years to explore options and to evaluate what you want to do with your life. Choose wisely according to your skills, interests and abilities. Most of us spend upward of forty to fifty years in our chosen career – make it one you will enjoy and find rewarding.
Consider attending a nearby community college for the core classes you will be required to take in your first two years of college. Tuition at community colleges is generally much more affordable, and you can live at home and save on the living expenses of going away to college. If your grades and admission test scores were not high enough for admission to the four-year college you wanted to attend, completion of a two-year Associates Degree at a local college will generally greatly increase the odds of acceptance as a transfer student at most four-year colleges. And consider one of the many two-year technical colleges as affordable alternatives for more focused training.
You may need to work. If you are still in school, consider summer or after-school employment as a way to begin setting aside money for college in your future. Good savings and good work habits will pay off for you in the long run in many other areas of your life. Perhaps you also need to consider working while attending school to help with the costs. Many employers, particularly larger employers with expanded benefit plans, will help their employees achieve their educational goals by assisting with tuition expenses or providing tuition reimbursement programs. And when you graduate from college with work experience, the ability you have shown to manage multiple responsibilities and the experience you have had will likely make you a more desirable job candidate.
Financial aid, grant money, scholarships of all different types, and student loans are often available. Your high school counselor or the financial aid office of the college you plan to attend can provide assistance identifying your options. Student loans are generally provided at excellent interest rates with lengthy terms for repayment, making them quite inviting as an easy way to pay for school expenses, perhaps at a college you really can’t afford.
A word of caution on student loan debt: When taking on student loan debt, think about how this debt will take away from your earnings for many years to come. Generally I recommend keeping student loan debt to no more than what you can reasonably expect to earn in the first year of working in your chosen career. The exception to this might be pursuing a profession requiring extra years of education with strong odds of earning a high future income; such as a doctor or dentist. Do you really want to have to send in chunks of your income year after year, to repay money you used for a few short years of college? If you do take out loans, use this money very wisely, so you don’t regret it later.
If you are a parent wanting to review investments for your child’s educational future, or if you are considering drawing from your retirement investments to fund college for your child, please contact our office at 770.931.1414 to schedule a free consultation appointment to review your situation in person.
For useful information on other financial planning topics, and observations on the market and the economy, please tune in to my weekly radio program, Your Green, aired Saturdays at 3:00 PM on 970 AM or live at http://www.faithtalk970.com. Visit our website at http://www.rogersgreen.com for additional helpful information. As always, we are here to help.
Roger S. Green is a registered Representative with Cetera Advisors LLC, member FINRA/SIPC, with Green Financial Resources, LLC located at 3700 Crestwood Parkway, Duluth, GA 30096. Neither Green Financial nor Gwinnett Technical College is affiliated with Cetera Advisors LLC. Hear more “Your Green”, Saturdays at 3PM, on WNIV 970 AM or live at http://www.faithtalk970.com. Visit Roger’s website at http://www.rogersgreen.com.