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Categorized | Paying For College

Help! My College Tuition Has Increased Beyond Affordability

helpareaderseriesI recently received a question from a reader regarding the tuition increase at their college for the 2010-2011 academic year. The student is currently a sophomore and will be a junior next year. Their school adopted a 7% increase in tuition and fees which equates to an extra $1500 that they will need to come up with (since it will not be covered by financial aid). From what I can tell, it appears that this $1500 may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back (or their checkbook) and may keep this student from attending their college next year.

The unfortunate part about this situation is that this student is not alone in their worries. Millions of students across the nation are facing tuition increases this year and all of us that are more seasoned about this process know that financial aid does not necessarily increase dollar for dollar to cover this extra expense (if financial aid fully negated all tuition increases, schools would not go through the hassle of increasing tuition rates…).

I would suggest the following for our reader (and anyone else experiencing a similar situation):

  • Follow-up with the Financial Aid Office – They may not be able to do anything to help offset the increase but you will never know unless you ask.
  • Look for Additional Scholarships at the College- Most scholarship opportunities are for first year students but every now and again you can luck into a scholarship that is designated for a student that is further along in their educational path and has a set vocation in mind. Since donors often restrict how their scholarships are awarded you (with the help of your financial aid office) should be able quickly identify any extra funding for which you would qualify. For example, some donors restrict their funds for a student going into a specific profession or graduating with a certain major (or both). These type of awards are rarely awarded to first year students because they usually don’t have their major selected nor do they really know what they want to do for the rest of their life (college usually helps to define this for them) So, these type of awards are geared more to upper class students.
  • Look For Grant Money From A State Program– When you started at the school, a particular state program may not have been available but, during your course of attendance, budgets and programs can change at the state level all the time. For instance, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics are hot subjects right now and students majoring in these fields in the state of Ohio have had the opportunity to receive extra scholarship dollars since 2008 (my assumption is that Ohio is not the only state to have this type of initiative).
  • Check Out Educational Loans Certainly don’t recommend this option unless all other resources have been exhausted. There are a number of different loan programs available to students and their parents. You should start with the federal loan programs (Direct Stafford, Parent PLUS, Perkins) and then start looking at private alternative loans (Sallie Mae, Wells Fargo, Discover). Also, check with your school to see if they have any private loan funds available for students (interest rates are usually more favorable on these types of loans…)
  • Get a Second Job– Chances are you already have a couple jobs you are undertaking to try and make ends meet at college. However, if your sleep schedule allows, try to pick up an additional job (night shift at a local hotel is great for studying while on the job!). Other money-making options could come from selling your plasma, participating in research studies, and/or tutoring.
  • Transfer to a Cheaper College – If finances are really keeping you from continuing your education at your school and you have exhausted all the options above, try and find a cheaper alternative. Over the past few years, the transfer process has been greatly simplified by a number of colleges and universities. You should have no problem with making a timely transfer to a school that has lower fees or is closer to home and will save you some living expense by giving you the opportunity to bunk up with mom and dad for a couple more years. ( I know.. the implications on your social life might be strained but it is only temporary!)

I hope this information helps to provide an answer for our reader’s question. If anyone else would like to add to the list above and provide other solutions, please feel feel free to do so in the comment selection below. The more we all know.. the better!

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