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Helping Homeschooling Families Avoid the College Debt Trap

by Jessica Parnell | May 06, 2014 | 4 min read

Most families who chose to homeschool their kids have a college education in mind as a final game plan. However, when you make the calculations and discover the actual costs involved, sticker shock is a common occurrence.

Homeschooling families are resourceful. We bond well, work efficiently together, and make things happen that most people don’t think are possible. Finding a way through the tough finances of college is something that you CAN do. There are numerous resources online, and with a bit of research and investigation, can net you a valuable reward.

11 Tips for Reducing College Debt and Saving Money

  1. Run a thorough scholarship search. There are some great search tools available online to give you a leg up on the scholarship drive. There are tons of scholarships out there — and sometimes finding them is the hardest part! Certain scholarships are very specific — aimed at particular religions, locations, parental occupations, and many more.
    • Scholarship Search. Search 2.7 million local, state; national college scholarships; grants by creating a profile with preferences and key interests.
    • Big Future. Find scholarships, other financial aid and internships from more than 2,200 programs, totaling nearly $6 billion. Enter as much information as possible to find the most matches.
    • Salt Scholarship Tool. Large and excellent search tool for locating scholarships.
  2. Plan to work — and take classes — during the summer. If you take a couple online classes or even a class or two at school, it can make a huge difference in your education. It could mean that you are able to take a class or two less during the year, or a couple summers could mean graduating a semester early. This can be a huge advantage in the job market because you enter it at a time when there are fewer brand new graduates competing for positions. Companies don’t just hire in June, they hire when they need people.
  3. Don’t sneer at a season of community college. Community colleges often get an undeservedly bad reputation. However, some of these schools offer a great education at an AMAZING price. The best deals can often be found at satellite campuses for major universities. It’s worth looking into if a semester or two of basic credits can be racked up will living at home, before transferring to your dream school.
  4. Look for high school scholarships — NOW. Don’t wait until you graduate to begin your scholarship search. You might be able to score if you apply early.
  5. Be aware of scholarship scams! Yes, thieves will even prey on students and families desperate for some financial assistance toward college tuition. There are quite a few scholarship scams out there, but fortunately, a VPN and cybersecurity expert from Comparitech has broken down many of these scams, which include phishing, advance-fee scams, sales pitch schemes, overpayment scams, and others. Read the article here to better understand what to look for when seeking a scholarship.
  6. Learn how financial aid for your children will be calculated. If you have a lot of personal debt, eliminating your own loans should take priority over college savings. Stephen Elias of Planet Tuition explains that although there is a definite benefit to saving for your child’s future, “college 529 accounts are generally low return — especially compared to the interest you’re paying on loans. Further, they’re considered a parental asset in your child’s financial aid calculation. In other words, if have a lot of money in this account, it could negatively impact what you ultimately pay for your child’s college.”
  7. Visit the ASA. The American Student Assistance Organization is a nonprofit group that offers a bevy of neutral resources and advice for parents and students.
  8. Consider professional advice. Be sure to take your time when applying for Federal Student Aid and don’t shy away from seeking professional help because of cost. Simple mistakes could cost you tens of thousands of dollars later. “You shouldn’t include your retirement assets on the FAFSA. You shouldn’t include your home equity on the FAFSA,” said college planner Kevin Campbell.
  9. Know that private schools may not always be more expensive. While it may sound more expensive, the net price can be surprising. “If you can qualify for the merit aid, if you can qualify for the financial aid, we often see them get down to the same price as a state school, and sometimes even cheaper,” added Campbell.
  10. Check to see if you are qualified for federal aid. There are many factors that contribute to qualification, so don’t count yourself out before checking. To receive any form of federal financial aid — which includes Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), Perkins Loans, Stafford Loans, PLUS Loans and Federal Work-Study jobs — you must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known by its acronym, FAFSA.
  11. Limit living expenses. Make sure your child knows that he or she is attending a university for one goal and one goal only. Every cost-cutting and frugal living technique should be researched and fully discussed before embarking on the college journey. Teaching your child how to live on a dime for a couple of years will be a valuable life lesson in the years to come. Once you have decided on a college and how to handle tuition, begin a campaign to address and reduce living expenses. They can add up unexpectedly if they are not planned out and budgeted.

The expense of college can be managed, but you must attack the process like a true warrior. Utilize every resource you can get your hands on. Fully engage your child in the process as a joint effort. And above all else, remember, where there’s a will there’s a way.

Jessica Parnell
Hello everyone! I’m Jessica Parnell — mom, homeschool evaluator, teacher, and CEO of Bridgeway Academy. In my 20+ years of experience as a homeschool mom and evaluator, I have had the privilege of meeting homeschoolers that take a variety of approaches to their education. It is their many stories and successes that inspire me in my own homeschooling and I love to pass on the knowledge that I have gained from them to other homeschooling families. The one constant that always remains true is that there’s no such thing as a “cookie cutter child.” Each child is fearfully and wonderfully made and as a result, learns and functions differently. It’s our job to ensure that we’re raising each child to fulfill their individual purpose and when we can teach in a way that inspires them, we are on our way to homeschool success. When I’m not writing or teaching my children, I like to ski, write and participate in triathlons. I graduated from Kutztown University with a Bachelor of Science in Education and a Masters in English and I am currently pursuing a degree in Neuroleadership.
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