Many parents are in the same position. Employment and economic factors have kept numerous families from saving and planning for their kids college. But there are some things you can do right now to help close the gap.
Lets take a look at where to start, but remember that every family has their own unique cash flow and financial snapshot. You need to look at yours first to set a starting point.
- Maximize Your Income Potential: Your children are not infants anymore, they are probably in middle or high school. Its time to look at your career opportunities and consider whether you can make better use of your available work hours. Maybe you can take on a full-time position if you were only working part-time, or possibly take a second job or even start you own side business. Use your talents and experience to help increase your earnings. Every little bit will help over the next few years as you try to build an education buffer.
- Save Now, But Save Smart: If you can find a way to begin saving, start now. If not, start looking for ways to reduce household expenses. Use coupons, compare insurance, cell phone, cable TV and internet costs to see if there are savings to be had. Any cost reductions can be used to expand savings. Make sure that any new savings are done properly, so as not to hurt your chances of qualifying for financial aid.
- Talk with your students about college costs and choices: Letting your children know about your financial dilemma may be the smartest move you can make. If they are aware of the high costs associated with college and are shown the different options that are available, they may focus their efforts on what is affordable. This will help to keep them on a positive path before they get acquire unrealistic expectations.
- Help build a “Marketable” student: One way you can get them involved is to help them become a more marketable student. While they are in high school, there are plenty of things that they can do to create a more well-rounded and impressive resume. This will help when they begin applying for college, scholarships and employment opportunities.
- Find ways to increase financial aid: Learn the methods for income and asset redistribution that will help your family to qualify for the maximum available financial aid. You will need to take these appropriate measures before December 31st of their senior year in high school if you plan to use these strategies on your first financial aid and FAFSA filings.
- Find ways to reduce college costs: Discover the multitude of ways that college students can reduce their campus costs. From textbooks and meal plans to recreation and housing, there are dozens of ways to slash costs by hundreds, even thousands every year. You need to take advantage of these savings and help your student to keep loans to a minimum.
Summary: Life is not perfect. The economy, housing and job markets have really taken a toll on family finances over the past decade. But if you take a proactive approach to your families education needs, you can make it work. It may not be the ideal situation, but the most important factor is that they get the education they need to become successful.