I’m no expert with higher education financing and there are people who do this very thing as their only living. That being said, there are some great tips I can offer that can help get you started on being able to pay (or at least help pay) for college.
I do not believe it is the parents’ responsibility to provide a higher education. My parents paid for VERY LITTLE of my college and I graduated with zero debt. This includes undergrad and graduate school. I had a little boost here and there, but I paid for at least 90% of it myself by working my tail off and applying for every scholarship I thought I could reasonably obtain. I appreciated the schooling more than many of my peers who were on mom and dad’s dime and gained a lot of discipline along the way. That being said, here are some places I’d direct you to look and learn some things.
- College Financial Aid Offices – Especially at the college your son wishes to attend, these are often a wealth of information. Of course, you’ll have to file the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for pretty much any type of financial aid (grant, scholarship or loan) you’ll get, so talk with the Financial Aid Office and file the FAFSA as early as you can. While you’re there, ask them any and every question you can about what scholarship and/or other programs they may recommend.
- Use Community College – I went two years to a community college and got my Associate’s Degree (A.S.). I transferred those credits and went two more to a private college and got my Bachelor’s Degree (B.S.). I paid WAY LESS at the community college, got my feet wet and learned how college worked without being too far from home and met a milestone by obtaining the A.S. along the way. Don’t underestimate the value of a good community college.
- Set clear expectations – Don’t surprise your son by telling him on the first day of school that it’s all on him. Be clear up front that you can’t help or can only help with $X amount every semester. Don’t sink your financial ship trying to help him get a higher education. For instance, maybe you can commit to buying his books each semester (these are EXPENSIVE), then use sites like textbooksrus.com to buy them used and re-sell them at the end of a semester.
- Have the student get a job – this may sound hard, but I held at least one job my entire college career (sometimes two or more). My spring semester of my second year, I took 23 credit hours (12 is considered a “full load”) and still tutored about 20 hours per week. I also got straight A’s that semester because I had focus, a major goal (get my Associate’s Degree and be ahead for fall semester at a new school) and I knew it was temporary.
- Finaid.org and studentaid.ed.gov – this provides info on student loans and helps explain the difference in government-backed loans and private loans. Hint: if you feel it necessary to go the route of loans, DO NOT GET A PRIVATE ONE!