Financial Well-Being Blog

college students working together to learn computer programming
April 11, 2024

Make Funding College Less Overwhelming

College-Career Planning

Even with careful saving, planning, and scholarship money, there is often a gap in affording a college education, leaving students and families responsible for all or some portion of the overall cost. Plus, the fees can seem never-ending, making the price exorbitant.

 

This is a reality many families face, and you are not alone in funding your child’s education. At CommunityAmerica, we have resources to help you plan for these expenses up front so that education costs don’t take your budget by surprise.

 

Below are several considerations for making your students' higher education more affordable and leaving college with the least amount of debt possible.

Loan Types

The best loan option is the Federal Student Loan for most student borrowers because they almost always cost less and easier to repay. This loan’s max is $5,500 for the first year, $6,500 for the second and $7,500 for subsequent years with a max of $31,000 for a bachelor’s degree. Federal Student Loans offer:

  • Lowest interest rates
  • Subsidized loan options based on a student’s financial need
  • Best repayment plans
  • The student assumes the debt

Your next best option is private student loans. These types of loans are available from banks, credit unions or higher-education lenders. Private student loans offer:

  • The ability to shop around for the best interest rate
  • An interest rate that is determined by your credit history
  • Various repayment options
  • Many times, the student can assume the loan at some point
  • CommunityAmerica offers a student loan that functions as a line of credit that might be the right fit for your family. We offer flexible repayment options and a co-borrower release once the student can qualify to hold their own loan

Your last option should be the U.S. Department of Education's Direct Parent PLUS loan. You apply for the Direct Parent PLUS loan through the federal student aid website. You are eligible to borrow the full cost of attendance minus any financial aid your student received in the form of scholarships or loans.

  • It often has a higher interest rate than secondary or private student loans
  • The parent is the borrower, leaving the parent responsible for all payments with no option to transfer the loans to the student
  • There’s no minimum credit score
  • While your child doesn’t have to start paying back their federal loans until they’re out of school, the Direct Parent PLUS loans go into immediate repayment

Ways to Reduce Costs

A post-secondary education comes with some unavoidable expenses, such as books and tuition. However, there are ways to reduce your overall cost of college by saving in other areas.

Applying For a Campus Job

There are several jobs for the taking on campus, such as becoming a desk assistant, working in the rec facility or becoming a residential assistant (RA). These positions offer a bit of income and may even provide free room and board. They are easily accessible and provide more structure for a college student's experience.

Living Off-Campus

Some universities do not allow students to live off-campus, but if it is allowed, this might be a feasible way to save some extra money. You should consider where your school is located and the cost of living there, as well as additional expenses such as utilities and transportation to campus. Finding roommates to split rent can also further reduce your living expenses.

Community College

The first year is widely considered the most expensive year of a college education. Many students choose to attend a community college for the first year or two of their education because their tuition rates are typically a fraction of the cost of state or private universities. They can knock out their general education classes and give themselves time to consider what they want their study focus to be.

Obtaining Department Scholarships

Once a student has settled on a major, it's crucial they get to know the faculty and staff in their department. There may be departmental scholarships available that are not always known. Often, faculty choose these scholarship recipients, making it important for students to know their professors and advisors. Getting involved on campus by trying clubs and rec activities will expose students to the kinds of aid and scholarships that may be available in those areas as well.

Graduate on Time

Only 44% of bachelor's degree recipients completed their degree in 48 months or less, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Students should set realistic expectations for how long it may take to complete their education and plan their workload around graduating on time to avoid taking out more loans.

Take A Year Off to Save

There is no rule implying students must attend college right after graduating high school. If it does not make financial sense for your family, there is always the option to take some time off to save. Families should not take on more debt they cannot afford if college is not feasible at that exact moment.

Discussing Expenses as a Family

In a few short months your young adult will have more independence than ever before, making it a crucial time to discuss money and finances with them. Don't avoid discussions on money, especially regarding funding their college education. It is important to plan together and be clear about how and who will cover additional costs not covered by loans.

 

If you have multiple children’s colleges to fund, it is wise to decide ahead of time how much you can contribute per student.

Next Steps

At CommunityAmerica, we strive to make paying for college less overwhelming by providing education about the options that exist and how to understand which might be best for you. We provide peace of mind by helping you make better, informed decisions, not just by providing a loan.

 

Our College & Career Planning page features tools that will help you get started. Make an appointment with our free dedicated College Planner to guide you in finding options that work for your family.

Was This Article Helpful?
2 of 2 people found this article helpful
About the Author
Karly Scholl Headshot
Karly Scholl

College & Career Planner

Karly is a College & Career Planner at CommunityAmerica. She can help you navigate the most important stages of the college and career planning process, including career exploration, choosing an educational program, and establishing realistic financial expectations around funding your education.

This article has been provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of a loan representative or financial advisor. The examples provided within the article are for example only and may not apply to your situation. Since every situation is different, we recommend speaking to a loan representative or financial advisor regarding your specific needs.