Smart plan for college can save big money

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 18, 2013

How much will college cost and, with my child in high school, how will I save enough money to send them to school?

In the realm of college planning, I hear that question more than any other. Well, if you are overwhelmed by the cost here are some things you and your student can do that cost, very little but could save you thousands of dollars.

• What is it that your student wants to do the rest of his or her life? This is the most important question to ask and one we often don’t explore early enough.

Email newsletter signup

What is it that they want to do when their feet hits the floor on Monday morning? Is traditional college even the best road for the student? If your son wants to be a diesel mechanic, why not explore a trade school that specializes in that career?

Someone who makes that decision at 17 or 18 could lose thousands of dollars going to a school that won’t give them the career they are looking for.

• What school will work with your son or daughter to get them educated and in the workforce expeditiously? Often kids change schools or majors because they did not visit the school or did not find out until too late that the school chosen won’t give them the degree or certificate that they need to start a career.

Just one extra year in college could cost your student $75,000 or more in extra tuition and loss of revenue from entering the workforce a year late.

• Is your student engaged in the process? Your high school junior or senior should be spending at least three hours per week looking for scholarships and/or grants that could save them long-lasting debt in the future.

Just 30 minutes online finding scholarship and grants and filling them out and submitting them could save thousands of dollars.

• Choose a school based on what the school can give your child. Is your son or daughter only going somewhere because their friend is attending there? This is often a very expensive mistake that many times results in transfer of schools (see tip No. 2 above)

• Do your homework. Is the school only graduating a small percentage of their incoming freshman? How much non-need financial aid does the school meet? Compare schools with each other. Are there scholarship dollars available in intercollegiate athletics at a smaller school? If you don’t know what these terms mean, look them up or ask someone who specializes in the topic.

Lastly, in choosing a school, go on surprise visits not just the “guided tour.” A university may cover some “warts” on the guided tour that you may find if you show up and just look around yourself.

Spending time in planning may just save you way more than simply putting dollars in a bank account.


Jay D. Zornes is a certified financial planner and member of the Ironton City Schools’ Board of Education.