According to a 2015 Gallup survey, 73 percent of parents with children under the age of 18 worry about paying for college more than any other financial issue (“U.S. Parents’ College Funding Worries Are Top Money Concern,” Gallup.com, April 20, 2015). And those worries are only increasing. From 1985 to 2015, inflation-adjusted wages essentially remained flat, while the cost of attending a public four-year university more than tripled (“Are Middle-Income Families Using the 529 Education Savings Plans They Fought For?” Brookings.edu, November 11, 2015).
So how can the average, middle-class family afford to send their children to college? It isn’t easy; however, there are a number of ways to reduce the high cost of college and minimize the financial impact it has on your lifestyle and future:
- Stay in-state. According to the College Board’s Trends in College Pricing 2017, the average 2017–18 annual cost of tuition, fees, and room and board for a four-year in-state public university was $20,770. For an out-of-state student, that figure jumped to $36,420. You can cut your costs almost in half by selecting an in-state option.
- Max out financial aid. Be sure to investigate all your options, starting with free sources of funding such as scholarships, endowments, and grants. Once those are exhausted, your next step may be to consider low-cost student loans.
- Attend a community college. If money is an issue, have your child attend a local two-year community college for a year or two, then transfer to a four-year university to finish up his or her degree. Most state universities accept community college credit hours, and acceptance is sometimes easier than it is for students who apply while in high school.
- Share the load. While you may believe it is your responsibility to pick up the entire tab, there is no shame in asking grandparents and other relatives to help with the cost. Also, many financial experts recommend making sure your children have some skin in the game and contribute a portion as well.
- Think outside the box. If you work with a financial professional, you may discover lots of creative ways to help pay for college. For example, did you know that you can borrow against the cash value of a whole life insurance policy and that this money does not count against you when filing for financial aid? Be aware that loans against your policy accrue interest and decrease the death benefit and cash value by the amount of the outstanding loan and interest.
Given the fact that high school graduates earn about 67 percent of what college graduates earn, there is little doubt that a college degree can make a big difference in your child’s future (Jennifer Ma, Matea Pender, and Meredith Welch, “Education Pays 2016: The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society,” College Board). And, with the right preparation and guidance, you shouldn’t have to jeopardize your future to do it.
This educational third-party article is provided as a courtesy by Martin Blau and Saul Fisher, Agent, New York Life Insurance Company. To learn more about the information or topics discussed, please contact Martin at 917-714-9315 or Saul at 718-486-4667.