My daughter recently chose her high school schedule. I know, I know. Some of you are thinking, “What’s the big deal?!” You’ve probably walked this road before.
But this is my eldest daughter — my first BABY, the first to cross the threshold into secondary school. I may have had an emotional moment, quickly followed by a stress-filled panic attack where I blurted out, “How are we going to afford college?!”
We began saving for college shortly after we paid off our final debt in 2012, so it’s not like we’re beginning at square one. However, the rising cost of higher education caused me to scramble and begin examining even more options to help prepare the way for our daughters to have a student loan-free education.
If you or your children or your grandchildren or your great grandchildren have higher learning on the horizon, check out these resources to help you save and earn money to put toward the effort.
Read great resources.
Call me crazy, but I’m in an intense research phase, right now. I want to read every book I can get my hands on and ferret out every website with a tidbit of information to help us help our children get a great education without breaking the bank. Two books I’d recommend for everyone to read are “Debt Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching off My Parents,” by Zac Bissonnette and “Confessions of a Scholarship Winner: The Secrets That Helped Me Win $500,000 in Free Money for College,” by Kristina Ellis.
You should also check out “Avoid Student Loans: A Guide for Maximizing Scholarship Earnings and Making Smart Financial Decisions During College,” by Peter Dunn (a.k.a. Pete the Planner) and Aaron Martin.
Then, you need to head online and bookmark learnmoreindiana.com, fastweb.com, student.gov, fafsa.ed.gov, wiredscholar.com and collegecosts.com.
Have an iPhone or iPad? Snag the free app Indiana College Costs Estimator. You can calculate and compare prices for Indiana colleges.
We’ve had CollegeChoice529 accounts for both of our girls for a few years. I love the convenience of the online platform and the fact that you can contribute as little as $10 at a time. Every single penny counts when you saving. Plus, Indiana taxpayers can qualify for a state income tax credit of 20 percent of their contributions, up to $1000 credit per tax year. You can even have a portion of your check direct deposited into your account. If you haven’t checked out this great savings program, you need to hit the Internet and sign up at collegechoicedirect.com
Most reserve the college scholarship process for their junior or senior year. However, there are a plethora of scholarships available to even middle school students. A quick Internet search will yield scores of results. Glean through them with a careful eye. If your student is close to graduation, be sure to check out the many scholarships available through the Johnson County Community Foundation. In 2015, 165 scholarships totaling more than $440,000 were awarded to students from all over the county.
I love any program that helps me save money without thinking about it. Upromise is a rewards program for college savings that helps you earn a percentage of your everyday purchases back when you link your debit or rewards cards to your account. You can even use the money you’ve saved with Upromise to pay off existing student loans. And you can register the cards of friends and family members to further the potential funds.
Grandmas, aunts, uncles and more can funnel cash into your child’s account through dining out, using coupons, and making online and in store purchases. Best of all, Upromise monies can be transferred directly into your CollegeChoice 529.
I accidentally stumbled onto this micro scholarship program online. Your student simply logs in their high school grades, activities and community service hours and receives a range of compensation toward a handful of different participating schools.
I’m sure this is just the beginning of my quest to help fully finance our daughters’ college education without the need for student loans. I may not be able to slow the sands of time but I can be better prepared for the next step. While the expense of tuition and room and board and books is daunting, there are ways to save money today and apply for scholarships now and in the future, too.