It’s an incredibly proud moment for your family when your teenager gets accepted into a great college. But right on the heels of that acceptance letter comes that first college tuition bill. You might be feeling a bit of sticker shock! Don’t worry, we’re here to help.
Tuition costs have been rising steadily since the 1980s, and the price of a 4-year college this year promises to be even more wallet-shattering than last. It’s a lot to process. So how do you cope?
Take A Deep Breath
Chances are you have been staring at the bill now for several minutes and thinking, “That number can’t be right. It’s a typo. It’s an ink smudge. I need new reading glasses.” It’s ok. Put the bill down a moment. Take some slow, deep breaths. Remind yourself that college is only four years.
Remember: Colleges Aren’t Trying To Profit
You might be thinking, “How did tuition rates get this bad? Are the colleges going broke?” Nope. College tuition is increasing because of a wide array of factors including improved services at the colleges, a higher cost of living, and the steep decrease in public funding of colleges. Today, an Ivy League education can run over $200,000. Even a degree from a state school can cost $40,000. So while it might seem like tuition is outrageous, it’s still as low as it can be.
Don’t Worry: There Is Help
There is more hope than you think. Some colleges do have the power to ease your pain. You may want to call the Financial Aid Department and inquire about any aid packages for which your child may qualify. Colleges welcome these calls and are usually quite helpful in discussing current financial aid options. Grants and scholarships change often, so be sure to get a complete list of the most current offerings available. Also, look at some ways you can reduce costs. For example, students who commute from home, or who live with roommates in off-campus housing, can save on expensive dorm and dining hall fees.
When the storm clouds have cleared a bit, you may realize there are more options than you had imagined. For example, two types of federal loans (Stafford loans and Perkins loans) can help you space out the payments for your kids’ college for up to a decade after their graduation—and these loans carry lower interest rates than other federal loans. Also, some colleges let you pay monthly, to avoid being hit with a single daunting bill.
Remember WHY College Is Important
Remember too, what your money is buying. A college education is prerequisite to many emerging jobs in fields like technology, life science, business, and education. So what you’re really buying for your child is the choices that will affect their ability to advance in the future and to realize their full potential. In the meantime, however, they may still be bringing home their laundry. After all, it’s cheaper that way.