You may not be able to foot the entire bill for your child to attend college, but you can support them in other meaningful ways.
If you're a parent, you may find yourself skimming over news regarding the cost of college. After all, who wants to read about something that is likely to make them feel bad? Just 29% of parents plan to pay the full cost of their child's college education, according to a study released by Fidelity.
If you're not in a position to pay in full, give yourself a break. There are plenty of other ways to help your child through college and minimize the amount of student loans they will need.
Pay what you can
Maybe you started a college fund but were never able to contribute as much as you hoped. Perhaps you got a late start or simply hit a financial roadblock and have been unable to save. Decide how much you can afford to contribute and have an honest conversation with your soon-to-be-student regarding what they can expect from you. If you can pay for lab fees and books, that's one less expense they'll need to plan for.
Help them apply for scholarships and grants
You're likely to have a good idea of how much you can contribute a year or two before you child begins college. The good news is that gives you and your child the chance to look for alternative funding sources. Here are some of the places your child should check:
- The U.S. Department of Labor's free scholarship search tool
- The higher education grant agency for your state
- A college financial aid office (preferably, the school your child plans to attend)
- Federal agencies
- Your employer (some offer tuition assistance for employee's kids)
- Ethnicity-based organizations
- Organizations related to your child's field of interest
- Civic groups
Finally, depending on how proactive they are, the counselor's office at your child's high school may be rich with financial assistance information.
Help them build a budget
Before they begin college, teach your child how to build a simple budget, including any income they will earn and bills that need paid while they're in school. It will also be a good time to discuss the value of saving the money they earn each summer to put toward the cost of their education The more they contribute, the less they will have to take out in student loans.
Keep them on your plans
Healthcare costs can wipe out even the best-laid budget, so make sure your child remains on your family healthcare plan. If possible, also keep them on your cell phone and auto insurance plans. Those are three expenses they won't have to worry about as they navigate the deep and muddy financial waters of higher education.
Offer to let them live at home
No, none of those 1980s movies about college show students still living at home, but the reality is this: During the 2019-20 school year, the average price of room and board is $12,990 at private colleges and $11,510 at public colleges. If your child is willing to attend school close to home, simply staying with you can save them between $46,040 and $51,960 over four years.
Keep their car running
Unless you're fortunate enough to live in a city with great public transportation, your child is likely to depend on his or her car to get to school (and possibly, a job). You can help by keeping their vehicle up-to-date on maintenance and in good condition.
A parent's job never ends. One of the most meaningful ways you can contribute to your child's education is to be there as emotional support, to cheer him or her on when things get tough. If your child longs for an education, you're the one who needs to say, "We've got this."