Rising education costs
In 2006, the average cost of a 4-year private college education broke the $30,000 mark. This is the first time the average education costs have reached that point. For the past several years, costs of college education have increased faster than inflation.
If this trend continues, and if parents intend to pay the entire cost for their children to attend a state institution, a family should begin to save as soon as possible.
Almost any family can set aside some amount of money, no matter how small. Whether a prospective student is in preschool or high school, it’s never too early or too late to start saving for college. Setting a savings goal and breaking it down into manageable installments is a good way to get started.
Paying for college expenses
The most economical way to attend college is also one of the most popular: have the children live at home, attend an inexpensive community college one or two years, and work part time to save money until they can transfer to a four-year school.
Many states are now offering dual enrollment courses, as well. This allows high school students to take college classes, funded by the state, and receive college credit. Students can earn up to an associate’s degree while still in high school, at little to no cost to the student.
Although a proven method for funding college education is for the parent to pay half and the child to pay half, there are five other methods for financing college education that are common with American families:
1. Children work and earn as they go. The majority of students who attend college or university work at least part time.
2. Parents and family help. Many parents pass along a portion of their inheritance by helping their children with education expenses.
3. Grants and scholarships. These are funds that do not have to be repaid.
4. GI Bill. The military offers substantial funding for education in exchange for military service.
5. Student loans. These should be the very last resort. Every other avenue of financing should be thoroughly explored before loans are considered.
It’s good for children to work and to help pay for their education. Proverbs 16:26 says, “A worker’s appetite works for him.” If children are helping to earn their way, the education they are seeking often means a great deal more to them.
Working part time is a great way to assist with paying tuition and to have extra spending money. Many offices on a college campus hire students during the school year. In some cases the work requires that the student is awarded Federal Work Study (FWS). FWS is a federal student financial aid program that promotes part-time employment for qualified students.
One of the best places to start searching for a part-time job is at the school’s student employment office. The next place to search would be the classified sections of local and campus newspapers. Finally, asking friends and classmates if they are aware of job openings is often successful.
Grants and scholarships
Grants and scholarships are the best type of college money, because they are usually tax free and do not have to be repaid. Both are offered by colleges, for-profit organizations, nonprofit organizations, private and personal resources, and government agencies. Federal and state grants usually are restricted to students who can prove that they have a great financial need.
Successfully locating, applying for, and receiving a scholarship requires time, energy, persistence, and patience. Beginning a search early will enable a student to learn about a variety of different scholarships well in advance of any application deadlines.
When beginning a scholarship and grant search, the student should begin at the local level. Check with school counselors’ offices, community organizations (Lions Club, Rotary Club, Kiwanis Club), religious organizations, parents’ employers, labor organizations, or civic group organizations (scouting, YMCA). Next, investigate campus-based scholarships and grants before moving on to state and national offerings.
A thorough search of scholarship and grant opportunities includes research at a public or campus library, local and campus bookstores, and free Internet scholarship search sites.
Although fee-based scholarship search organizations should be avoided if at all possible, if all other efforts have been completely unsuccessful, the student might want to investigate one of the fee-based organizations.
Avoid student loans
A loan should be considered as an absolute last resort only after all other financing possibilities have been exhausted and parents and children agree that a loan is necessary in order for them to attend college. They also should be certain that attending college will maximize their investment in the future and their growth intellectually, personally, and spiritually.
Even at that, they need to (1) borrow only what is absolutely needed for education expenses; (2) borrow for a short period of time; (3) pay back what was borrowed as quickly as possible; and (4) sacrifice as needed to get out of debt.
If it is truly God’s will for children to attend school, He will supply the funds—many times without having to borrow.
The principle of borrowing does not depend on how or where the money is used. If money is borrowed, it must be repaid—usually with interest. Borrowing to attend school is certainly not a sin, but by borrowing, God’s plan for provision can very well be circumvented.
Many Christians have finished school only to find that they are shackled with enormous debt that they incurred while getting their education. Sometimes it takes many years for them to get out of debt before they are able to go where God wants them to go and do what God wants them to do.
If attending a seminary or college is a need in your children’s lives, then God is able to provide the funds needed without having to borrow.“My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
Originally posted 5/10/2011.