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What if College Actually Isn't Affordable?

What if College Actually Isn't Affordable?


I spend a lot of time on helping families and writing about making college affordable. But what if it isn't? What if you don't make enough to save, have too much of your own student debt to save for your own retirement, never mind your child's college, or just find that you can't cut your expenses enough to free up the cash?

Is it time to accept that college might not be affordable? Yes, and no.

The Commuting Option

If you take a look at Room & Board costs at many colleges, they typically run in the $10,000 or more a year range. I know you're probably dying to get your kid out of the house (and they probably want out too), but ask yourself if commuting is an option. Commuting can save you a fortune and if you live in an area with a lot of schools locally, your child might even have a lot of choices of where to attend.

Is it worth it for your child to miss out on some aspects of campus life? Maybe. It depends on your child. It may actually help them academically to live at home. They may graduate more quickly or be more motivated to get a job and get out sooner. 

The Community College Option

Community colleges are often less than half the cost of other schools. They are not neccesarily of lesser academic quality, and may actually provide more one-on-one professor time than other schools. Many students can attend a community college for 2 years, and then transfer to a 4-year school to graduate from there.

I would recommend checking with the options you might be interested in to see if they partner with 4-year schools to ensure the credits earned there will transfer to the 4-year school. You don't want to end up paying for credits you can never use.

You might also be pleasantly surprised that the 4-year school might have scholarships specifically for transfers. These scholarships can be based on the performance at the community college, not high-school grades or test scores.

Speaking of Scholarships

Although the majority of scholarship money is given directly from schools themselves based on academic achievement, it can be possible to amass enough money from scholarships to make college affordable. However, you and your child will need to treat this as a part-time job. Check out my Scholarship resources to get started. 

Is your child good at science, an instrument, or have another talent? Some schools offer scholarships that are distributed based on specific tests or auditions. Are there alumni scholarships from your school? Do you belong to community organizations that offer scholarships, or work at a company that provides them to employee children? In my opinion, this is the hardest way to finance college, but it can be done.

Another Creative Solution

Some states have ridiculously easy requirements for becoming a resident for in-state college tuition purposes, some are ridiculously hard. If your child really wants to attend a state school in another state, maybe it makes sense to check out their requirements. It may be beneficial for your child to take some time off to establish residency, get a job, and get a head start on being an adult!

Think of affordability for college as a four-year cash flow problem you have to solve. Too often parents focus on what they have to do for the first year, and forget that's only the start of it. Understand what scholarships/grants/loans/job funds you have the first year and the years after that. Have a plan in place to get you from admission to graduation financially! Need help? Reach out and I can help you get started.