As a parent, there’s likely nothing more you want for your child than to see them succeed.
Although success often stems from receiving a higher education, the average cost of college today is pretty steep — about $33,000 a year for a private four-year institution to be exact. Not to mention, you likely have other financial goals to consider, such as retiring or paying off a mortgage.
Fortunately, you can help figure out ways to pay for college that won’t hurt your wallet. Find out how you can help finance your child’s education without spending a cent.
How to help your child pay for college without going broke
Here are some great ways to pay for college without actually putting any money on the table, according to parents and college graduates.
1. Help your child fill out the FAFSA
One of the first steps your child should take when applying for schools is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This will let your child access federal financial aid that can be used to fund their college education.
Unfortunately, the process can be complicated; that might be why billions of dollars in financial aid went unclaimed last year. Helping your child fill out the form correctly can ensure they’ll get the most money (from grants to federal loans) possible. That’s what Jaime Leon and his wife did for both of their children who went to private colleges.
“When FAFSA time came, it was a parent-child team effort,” said Leon. “I can’t see how a high schooler by themselves could get through that. We guided them when they received their financial aid/loan offers and helped them to understand the bigger picture of how much they would owe at the end.”
Although the Leons did help pay for some tuition costs after their children brought home good grades, filling out the FAFSA helped cover the bulk of the costs.
2. Help your child choose a major that will lead to a high-paying job
Parents have the experience and knowledge to help guide a child’s interests and choice of college to make sure a pricey education is worth it. That’s what Nathaniel Turner did for his son when they were researching potential majors and schools.
“My son’s academic experiences were specifically structured so he would choose a major with an exceptional return on investment (ROI),” said Turner. “He also selected the university whose degree offered the highest ROI.”
To do this, Turner went through a series of guiding steps with his son:
- Tailored his academic development around meeting the qualifications of the top institutions
- Projected college costs for the types of universities he wanted to attend
- Stayed abreast of employment trends via sources like the World Economic Forum and PayScale
- Visited U.S. News & World Report to examine things such average graduate salaries, EPS (endowment per student), and four-year graduation rates
- Had his son apply to college and universities that reported the highest four-year graduation rates for African-American male engineers
- Helped him open an IRA when he started his first job, so he would also know the value of long-term financial goals
Instead of wondering, “Should parents pay for college tuition?” help your child find a well-paying job upon graduation to pay off any student loan debt they incur along the way.
3. Help your child get a paid internship, side hustle, or part-time job
There’s a reason summer jobs are a thing; they help your kids make their own money to pay for their own stuff.
Well, the same holds true while your child is in college too. Having your child earn an income while they’re still in school is one of the best ways to pay for college. It could help them pay down their loans or cover the cost of their tuition.
Although your child will be the one applying for jobs, you can certainly help guide them on how to get a job. This could include:
- Reviewing how to craft a resume
- Doing mock interviews before your child meets with an employer
- Going through their wardrobe to choose a professional outfit
As a college student your child could look into:
- Getting an on-campus job such as tutoring or working in the library
- Stacking their school schedule with classes on certain days so that they can work on others
- Taking on a side hustle such as becoming a DoorDash Dasher or tutoring
Even better, you could encourage your child to get a paid internship.
“My parents encouraged me to get a paying internship while in school,” said Gabriel Kirshtein. “This was great because I got credit for school, real-world experience, and started making money to help pay back my student loans. The internship even helped me land a full-time job when I graduated.”
4. Help your child earn college credits while in high school
Just because your child isn’t in college yet doesn’t mean they can’t start earning university credits.
“I had my son enroll in AP classes so he could take the AP test to earn college credits,” said Turner. “He had 33 hours worth before starting college.”
Taking AP exams is one of the best ways to pay for college. Each exam costs $94 to take and even less for low-income families. That’s huge savings compared to the $661 average cost of college credit at a four-year private for-profit university. The exams are scored from one to five, and many colleges will give credit for scores of three or higher.
Having more credits before even setting foot on campus also means your child could graduate early and save more on housing, food, and overall tuition costs.
5. Help your child navigate private student loans
Although applying for federal aid and scholarships should be the first line of defense when looking for ways to pay for college, your child still might have a gap in financial coverage.
So, do most parents pay for college then? Well, not exactly. Parents still have the option of cosigning their child’s private student loans.
“We helped both of our children fill out the FAFSA and research scholarships first,” said Leon. “But we did end up having to cosign some private student loans to cover the remaining costs.”
Unlike federal student loans, which are issued and regulated by the government, private student loans are issued by independent lenders. That means their criteria for who can qualify for a loan is based on things such as a credit score and income. Many college students might not meet those requirements and therefore need a parent cosigner to qualify for the loan or potentially receive a better interest rate.
Cosigning can help your child get the money they need to pay for school without requiring you to spend any money upfront.
On the flip side, although your child is responsible for paying back the loan, you are on the hook if they can’t pay. Before cosigning a loan, it’s important to talk to your child about how the repayment process will work and the importance of staying on top of payments, so you’re not stuck paying back the loan later on.
Your lender might offer cosigner release once your child makes a certain number of payments. This would relieve you of that burden and is something you should talk about with potential lenders and your child before signing off on any loan.
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2019!
|1 Important Disclosures for Ascent.
Before taking out private student loans, you should explore and compare all financial aid alternatives, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans and consider your future monthly payments and income. Applying with a cosigner may improve your chance of getting approved and could help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Ascent Student Loans may be funded by Richland State Bank (RSB). Ascent Student Loan products are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information and certification of loan amount by a participating school. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions, and certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of Turnstile Capital Management (TCM) and may be used by RSB under limited license. Richland State Bank is a federally registered service mark of Richland State Bank.
* Application times vary depending on the applicants ability to supply the necessary information for submission.
2 Important Disclosures for CollegeAve.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
Information advertised valid as of 2/1/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
3 Important Disclosures for Discover.
* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.
4 = Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
5 Important Disclosures for SunTrust.
Before applying for a private student loan, SunTrust recommends comparing all financial aid alternatives including grants, scholarships, and both federal and private student loans. To view and compare the available features of SunTrust private student loans, visit https://www.suntrust.com/loans/student-loans/private.
Certain restrictions and limitations may apply. SunTrust Bank reserves the right to change or discontinue this loan program without notice. Availability of all loan programs is subject to approval under the SunTrust credit policy and other criteria and may not be available in certain jurisdictions.
SunTrust Bank, Member FDIC. ©2019 SunTrust Banks, Inc. SUNTRUST, the SunTrust logo and Custom Choice Loan are trademarks of SunTrust Banks, Inc. All rights reserved.
6 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Additional terms and conditions apply. For more details see LendKey
7 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
A government loan is made according to rules set by the U.S. Department of Education. Government loans have fixed interest rates, meaning that the interest rate on a government loan will never go up or down.
Government loans also permit borrowers in financial trouble to use certain options, such as income-based repayment, which may help some borrowers. Depending on the type of loan that you have, the government may discharge your loan if you die or become permanently disabled.
Depending on what type of government loan that you have, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness in exchange for performing certain types of public service. If you are an active-duty service member and you obtained your government loan before you were called to active duty, you are entitled to interest rate and repayment benefits for your loan.
A private student loan is not a government loan and is not regulated by the Department of Education. A private student loan is instead regulated like other consumer loans under both state and federal law and by the terms of the promissory note with your lender.
If your private student loan has a fixed interest rate, then that rate will never go up or down. If your private student loan has a variable interest rate, then that rate will vary depending on an index rate disclosed in your application. If the interest rate on the new private student loan is less than the interest rate on your government loans, your payments will be less if you refinance.
If you don’t pay a private student loan as agreed, the lender can refer your loan to a collection agency or sue you for the unpaid amount.
Remember also that like government loans, most private loans cannot be discharged if you file bankruptcy unless you can demonstrate that repayment of the loan would cause you an undue hardship. In most bankruptcy courts, proving undue hardship is very difficult for most borrowers.
8 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|4.23% – 13.23%1||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.20% – 11.44%2||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.84% – 13.49%3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.50% – 10.11%*,4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.25% – 13.25%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|5.85% – 6.99%6||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.95% – 9.81%7||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.45% – 12.42%8||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|