Families can’t do much to control the rising cost of college tuition, but experts say that doesn’t mean they have to go into massive debt to put their children through school.
There are ways to be a smart consumer and to keep college costs under control, according to Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, the author of several books on personal finance including her latest releases, “College Secrets: How to Save Money, Cut College Costs and Graduate Debt Free” and “College Secrets for Teens: Money Saving Ideas for the Pre-College Years.”
Many high school seniors are recovering from the year-end college application frenzy and the family’s attention is turning to how to pay for school with the beginning of the financial aid application season. Nearly two-thirds of students who graduate with a four-year degree leave with debt—on average about $28,000, the Project on Student Debt reports.
Before falling in love with a school, Khalfani-Cox (a.k.a. “The Money Coach”) suggests families master the financial aspect of college. Too often, they can get wrapped up in the notion of a dream school at any cost, while students can get a good education at any number of colleges and there are ways to make it more affordable, writes Khalfani-Cox.
The books offer tips for saving on upfront cost of college (tuition, room and board, books and supplies) from going to a college that locks in tuition cost for all four years, to earning credits in pre-college programs, to attending a “work college” where you pay as you go.
Once a college is selected, Khalfani-Cox encourages students to fight back against hidden college fees. Colleges charge for a number of fees including fitness facilities, yearbooks, and sports packages. Students can save money by opting out of any that are not mandatory.
Khalfani-Cox explains the financial aid process in detail, along with information about getting scholarships, work-study jobs, and tools for forecasting the true cost of higher education. She notes that 87 percent of entering freshmen in the fall of 2012 received tuition discounts in the form of institutional grants and scholarships. So families should not be discouraged by the published sticker price—but it does take effort to apply for and negotiate the best deals.
For every college expense a family encounters, Khalfani-Cox says there are multiple strategies to reduce out-of-pocket costs. She writes: “You simply have to explore your options, use a little creativity, and resist the urge to simply whip out your checkbook or credit card every time you are asked.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the College Bound blog.