It is what every parent dreams about. Seeing their son/daughter off to college one day. Many parents spend their entire lives saving for their child's education. Obtaining a college degree is what many people define as success or at the very least a key ingredient to becoming a successful member of society. There is no question about the importance of a college education. Specifically, in our current economic climate. Jobs are scare and the employers are requiring more. Paying for tuition can be a nightmare for most students. There are many options to consider and even more sacrifices to be made. Investing in an education is just that, an investment. Therefore, it is imperative to invest wisely. It is important to arm yourself with as much information as possible.
Student loans and grants can be quite helpful. Every student should begin by filling out a FASFA application.
Once the FASFA is completed, you will receive an award letter which details what type of financial aid there is available to you. This award letter will also include student loan information. Student loans appear to be the answer on the surface. However, students must thoroughly understand interest rates and the long term financial strain this may bring them. The average graduate student will finish complete their degrees with $30,000- $60, 0000 in debt. That may turn out to be a huge mountain to climb. Many graduates find themselves paying back loans for up to thirty years. In some cases this debt can impede them from one day helping their own children pay for college which makes it generational debt. Interest rates may appear to be low but, they are usually variable interest rates and can add up to an insurmountable debt. Therefore, loans should never be taken lightly and should be researched thoroughly.
There are any things students and their families can consider alleviating some of the cost. Students can save money by living at home while they attend school if at all possible. Living expenses are a large part of the net cost of school so this option may be very helpful to some students. Finding a job while attending college or university can be an effective way to for the student to contribute. However, a full time student may find it difficult to work and maintain a grade point average. After all the whole point of attending college is to be successful so this may not be a feasible option for everyone. The federal work study program can offer some assistance to who qualify.
Financial aid and grants are an excellent form of assistance. However dependent students may find it difficult to acquire grants due to their parent's income. Depending on the income and size of the family some students may not meet the requirements to qualify. In California there is a board of governor grant (BOGG) that will cover registration and unit fees. In my experience this has been invaluable. A student is considered independent this may be an easier process. IN order to be considered an independent student you must have a child of your own, be married, emancipated or over the age of twenty five.
Community colleges can offer more reasonable rates than universities. A student can attend for the first two years and complete all their general requirements inexpensively. However, due to the stagnant economy many courses are being cut and enrollment has increased significantly. People who have found themselves recently unemployed are choosing to return to school to increase their skills or acquire a degree. This makes enrollment very difficult. Students may have to wait several semester s before they can actually get into the classes they need. This can be disheartening and, that is where serious problems can occur. Some students may drop out of pure frustration. A two year program can easily turn into 4 years.
Books, supplies and fees are additional expenses students should plan on. Books can be quite expensive. At a California community college, books for 4 classes cost 600.00 on average. Purchasing used books online can dramatically decrease the cost. There are several websites who now offer book rentals. Renting a book for the semester can cost as little as $20.00. Many students also find sharing books to be an efficient way to save money.
Taking the same classes as friends when possible or working with a study partner. This can be complicated but still an excellent option. Some professors may have a copy of the text book available in the school library. These books cannot usually be checked out but are available to photocopy. If you decide to purchase books you can sell them at the end of the term and use that money towards new books. Provided that the version is not outdated or that the school has not discontinued them. Some schools offer a buyback program which eliminates the hassle of selling books on your own. They typically do not pay very much but it is worth looking into.
Parking and class fees are hidden expenses you will encounter in college or university. Parking at a community college can cost up to $50.00 per semester. At my college we are required to pay for parking as early as the first week of classes. Ironically an actual parking spot is usually hard to come by. Class and lab fees are inevitable. It is crucial that you are aware of this fees and due dates. Most universities and colleges offer health insurance. Some institutions require that you purchase coverage while others leave it to your discretion. In personal experience the prices were reasonable and if you don't have healthcare this is actually an excellent benefit.
I would like to say that, where there's a will there is a way but, that that would be untrue. It is the American dream and it is for sale, to the highest bidder. The bottom line is that attending college or university takes careful planning and research. It is an investment in our future but it is slowly becoming a pipe dream for many students across the country. Many potential students will opt to work right after high school. Lacking education and experience this decision can lead to a lifetime of struggle. I would like to believe that we are all equal and can achieve anything through hard work.
Unfortunately that is not the case. They will never even have the opportunity to pursue their dreams. Parents should start a college fund as soon as possible. Perhaps even before they actually have children. This is the only way to ensure your child has a chance. Researching your field of study and arming yourself with information will make the process easier. Inevitably you will incur some debt. The sooner you can start paying it off the better off you will be. Sounds simple enough but it is anything but simple. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, if you can afford it, is yours for the taking.