With one son in college, one in his senior year of high school and a daughter in 8th grade, the topics of college and money come up a lot in my house. From a young age, we have always been very open about finances with the kids. We have discussed various financial issues and concepts with them so they have a decent idea about money and education. The kids have been taught that paying for college is their job, but that we will help when and if we are able. My husband and I both paid for the majority of our college education and we expect that they will do the same. There are parents who think it is their responsibility to pay for their children’s college education. Many financial experts will tell you that parents should not sacrifice their retirement or their financial stability to fund their children’s education. If parents are in the position to help with a child’s educational expenses, then most agree that it is acceptable to do so.
The most important step to take for ensuring that one is able to get any kind of financial help is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form (FAFSA). This is the form that all colleges, banks, private and public entities and the government will use to determine the type and amount of financial assistance a student qualifies for. The form for the 2018-2019 academic year became available on Sunday, October 1st, 2017 and nearly 238,000 applications were filed that day. Another important step to securing money for college is to decide what colleges the prospective student is interested in. Many colleges and universities have deadlines for certain types of financial aid, so don’t miss out on these opportunities. Knowing the priority deadlines for scholarships and other financial aid opportunities for different colleges is critical for maximizing financial assistance.
Students and parents should start looking into colleges and financial aid as soon as possible. The more time they have to explore different options, the better informed and educated they will be about the total financial picture associated with attending any given college or university. If your kids are like mine and enjoy video games, there is an on-line game that kids and parents can play that show the estimated cost of college as you pick different options such as meal plans, room size, etc. You can play over and over again to see the financial toll or savings decisions can have on the overall cost of college. As I stated in the beginning, we will help our kids pay for college and associated expenses as long as we are able to do so without compromising our financial stability.
There are many ways parents can offer assistance that may not include paying for college tuition. My kids are welcome to live at home, with no costs for room, board, a vehicle, utilities or insurance (health/car/life). Since I am employed by a university, they are welcome to attend that university and get the tuition assistance offered to dependents of employees. Tuition credits (this program no longer exists in Ohio) that I was able to purchase when my kids were young can help with college costs. Money from their high school graduation can also be applied toward expenses. Then there is always the tried and true, job. Most experts agree that kids who work while going to college have better outcomes than those who do not.
All in all, the sooner you start planning for college, the better, but if you didn’t start early, start now!