How to Afford College When the Financial Aid Package Isn’t Enough

Was your child’s financial aid package to the college of their dreams less than you had planned? Are you now left wondering how to afford college? Don’t throw in the towel on their dreams quite yet. Instead, dig in your heels and use the suggestions below to find new ways your family can afford college.

Negotiate Your Financial Aid Package

You can negotiate for more need-based aid or more merit-based aid, according to Money. A pro tactic is to be accepted to more than one school, compare financial aid packages and use the school’s package you don’t want to help negotiate for a higher deal with the college your child wants to attend.

Armed with the other package, call the financial aid office of their preferred college and explain they’ve been accepted by another college who has offered more than they are. Explain that your child would like to attend their college but will need more financial aid in order to do so. The ball is in their court at that point, but at least you put pressure on them to make a decision quickly.

Try the Community College Hybrid Approach

The first two years of college are mainly spent taking prerequisite courses and figuring out what you want to major in. It can make sense to encourage your child to meet these requirements and initially attend classes at a much less expensive community college and reapply to the college of their choice to finish out junior and senior year. Keep in mind that not all courses are accepted at all four-year colleges.

Using this approach, not only will you save more money than if your child attended a private college for four years — which costs an average of $32,410, according to CollegeBoard — but they’ll still graduate with a diploma from the college of their choice.

Make a Wise Decision

It’s also wise to explore a monthly tuition payment plan. Otherwise, if you’ve exhausted all options, you may need to get flexible. Look at the tuition as well as room and board costs for every college they’ve been accepted to, then look at the financial aid they’ve been offered. Subtract your financial aid amount from the total cost and figure out which college is cheapest to attend.

Pay as You Go With a Job

It’s possible to also supplement tuition with part-time work. In fact, Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce found that more than 70 percent of college students have part-time jobs.

You should have conversations as a family about whether it would be possible to attend college full-time and work on the weekends, during winter break and summers. If that doesn’t seem possible, they could choose to defer admission (usually with a deposit to secure your position) until next year’s freshman class in order to take a year to work full-time and save enough money. If this option seems appealing, it’s best to still go through the application process, get accepted and then defer instead of waiting to apply altogether a year in the future when you may be out of the loop.

Apply for Scholarships

Of course don’t forget that they can continue to apply for scholarships their entire college career, not just in the year leading up to college. Students can visit their financial aid office as well as check with their college advisor on available scholarships within their department and major. There are also many online databases where students can search for a variety of scholarships, such as Fastweb and Niche.

This process is not just up to you as a parent. You should make sure it’s clear that everyone has to do their part to find ways to pay for college. If you take an all-hands-on-deck approach and work as many angles to save as possible, you should be able to still see your child follow their dreams to the college of their choice.

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