As published in the Star Advertiser on September 18, 2018.
When your child starts applying for colleges, the household may be filled with anticipation and excitement for what lays ahead. Often, the question at the top of most parents’ minds is: How much is this going to cost, especially if the child wants to attend a college that’s away from home?
Supporting your child through college can be financially challenging. In addition to tuition — which has risen nearly 200 percent at public universities over the past 20 years — there are also housing, food, transportation, books and other expenses to consider, adding thousands of dollars to the cost of the education.
Here are things to consider when planning to support your child through college without breaking the bank.
Understand the actual cost of college
Schools that participate in the federal student aid program must provide a net price calculator on their website, which estimates the cost of attendance while taking into account possible financial aid sources. Make a list of your child’s top schools and visit each site to complete the calculator. What you find may surprise you. With scholarships and grants, your child’s dream private university may end up with a lower net price tag than tuition at a public university.
Complete the FAFSA
Visit fafsa.ed.gov to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Both you and your child will need to create a FSA ID to complete FAFSA. Even if you don’t think your family will qualify, it doesn’t hurt to apply — most families are eligible for some type of aid, whether it’s grants, low-interest loans or work-study funds.
Make sure your child lists all the schools he or she is considering. Because many colleges have limited financial aid, it helps to apply early so these schools hold your place in line for aid.
Scholarship opportunities expand far beyond those offered by your child’s college or federal agencies. Many organizations, from nonprofits to professional groups to local businesses, offer scholarships based on the organizations’ individual criteria. Hawaii State FCU’s Lowell Kalapa Scholarship Program supports HSFCU members’ higher education goals by awarding $2,000 scholarships to 20 HSFCU members’ dependent or spouses every year.
Some universities offer scholarships with additional requirements, such as writing an essay on a specific topic. Be sure to check requirements – and early deadlines – that may apply.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s free scholarship search tool at careeronestop.org provides access to 7,500 scholarships, fellowships, grants and other award opportunities. Your child’s college and career counselor at school is another great resource to find scholarships.
Be sure to check Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) universities and colleges that offer reduced tuition in certain two-year and four-year programs for qualifying students from Hawaii.
Create a budget together
Once you’ve figured out approximate costs, sit down with your child and create a monthly budget together. Be as specific as possible, including categories such as entertainment, eating out, books and personal care. Visit hawaiistatefcu.com to find budgeting calculators and other helpful tips for creating a budget.
Discuss what you plan to contribute financially, and what your child will need to pay for with student loans or a part-time job. Make sure your child understands how student loans work, including how much the monthly payments will be once your child graduates. If you plan to give your child an emergency credit card, set guidelines on what exactly it should be used for — an important flight home, for example, not a shopping spree.
Finally, remember that it may take six to nine months for recent college grads to find full-time employment in the field studied. Consider that you may have to help support your child after graduation and that you may have to prepare now for the added financial cost.
Preparing for college marks a new and exciting journey for everyone in the family. By taking the right steps, you and your child will be well-equipped to meet the financial challenges and make the most of his or her college experience.