As college costs continue to rise, families are seeking strategies to effectively manage expenses and save for education. The average sticker price for college, including tuition, fees, room and board, and other expenses, is substantial, with an average of $27,940 for in-state public colleges and $57,570 for private colleges for the 2022-23 school year. However, families often pay less than the published costs due to various financial aid options.
A report from Sallie Mae highlights that families spent an average of $28,026 on education costs last year, with loans covering about 21%, scholarships and grants covering about 29%, and the remaining costs being covered by students’ and parents’ income and savings. To navigate these costs, here are three strategies families can consider:
Tap College Savings Accounts: Utilizing state-sponsored tax-advantaged 529 savings accounts can allow savings to grow tax-free, provided the funds are used for qualified educational expenses. These accounts can cover various education-related costs, from tuition to room and board and even K-12 tuition. Starting early and regularly contributing to these accounts can help families accumulate funds for future educational expenses.
Leverage Private Scholarships: Seeking out merit-based scholarships can significantly offset college costs. High school juniors and seniors should focus on their coursework and standardized test scores to unlock admission and scholarship opportunities. There are numerous private scholarships available from foundations, corporations, and other organizations, with websites like Scholarships.com and Fastweb.com helping students find suitable options.
Appeal for More Financial Aid: Families can appeal to the college’s financial aid office for additional assistance, especially if their financial circumstances have changed since the initial aid award. Writing an appeal letter and reaching out to the financial aid team can help families receive a more suitable aid package. Additionally, families who didn’t apply for financial aid this year can still submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to access federal grants and institutional aid.
As college costs continue to be a concern for families, implementing these strategies can help them navigate the financial aspects of higher education and ensure that students have access to quality education without unnecessary financial burdens.