As a parent, you’ve undoubtedly thought about your child’s college education—no matter what their current age is. And if you’re planning on paying their way, or at least helping them out, cost is certainly a factor.
Unless you’ve got a huge sum of cash to plunk down when it’s time to pay, chances are you’ll need to find multiple ways to fund your child’s education.
Here are seven options to consider:
Whether you or your child is paying, begin by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for any aid. The form allows you to receive financial aid such as federal grants, work-study grants, work-study opportunities, student loans and even some state- and school-based aid.
Some colleges award this money on a first-come, first-serve basis, so it’s important to fill it out as soon as you can.
Encourage your child to start early if they’re thinking of obtaining a scholarship to help offset the cost of their college tuition. While the process involved with researching suitable scholarships can be overwhelming, use a scholarship search tool to narrow your selection.
These funds don’t have to be paid back, and most require an application in addition to submitting the FAFSA.
Federal Pell Grants are available, and the first step in getting one is to fill out the FAFSA. You must submit the FAFSA and renew it each year your child is enrolled in school to receive the Pell money if you’re eligible. Normally, these grants don’t have to be paid back.
The federal government has other types of grants, and many states also offer them.
A federal work-study program funds part-time jobs for college students with financial need. On the FAFSA form, select the box asking to be considered for work-study. If a college gives your son or daughter such funding, they will have to find an eligible job for the program and then work enough hours to earn the amount allocated to them.
Dipping into your savings account is probably something you’ve considered to pay for college expenses. In fact, the typical family covers 34 percent of college costs this way.
A 529 plan is a common way for parents to save money for college. These accounts offer tax advantages in an investment account meant to pay college expenses.
Paying back student loans is the last thing any college graduate wants, but sometimes federal student loans are a necessity. Federal loans can allow college graduates to repay based on their income and can be forgiven in certain circumstances. Federal subsidized loans don’t accrue interest while a student is enrolled in school.
Private Student Loans
These should be your last resort to pay for college. Private loans don’t have the same benefits as federal student loans do, though they may have some.
Shop around at private lenders—look for one with the lowest interest rate and best protections such as flexible repayment plans or putting loans off for a period of time if your son or daughter is in a position where they’re struggling to make payments. Interest on private loans will likely be charged as soon as one is taken out, although repayment doesn’t begin until after graduation.
This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional or legal advice.