It’s that time of year where college hopefuls start getting their acceptance letters and financial aid offers. May 1 is the general deadline for students to let schools know their final decision on whether they’re attending. According to ConsumerReports.org and StudentLoanHero.com, parents and students alike should weigh the total costs beyond just tuition and housing in their decision process.
Sixty-nine percent of college students in the Class of 2018 took out student loans, graduating with an average debt of $29,800. In addition, parents had an average of $35,600 in federal Parent PLUS loans. StudentLoanHero.com found that more than half of undergraduates don’t take full advantage of federal student aid.
It pays to do the research and identify the schools that align with your goals and wallet. ConsumerReports.org shared a few ways to help ease college costs.
Go beyond the sticker price: You can’t make plans if you don’t have a clear picture of actual cost. Check the university’s website for a net price calculator. If the school you’re considering doesn’t have one, subtract your financial aid (including scholarships, grants and work study) from the cost of attendance. To get an accurate net cost, be sure the total cost listed by the school includes tuition, fees, room and board. You should also factor in other costs such as books, personal expenses, transportation etc.
Break up payments: Rather than paying in a lump sum, find out if the school you’re considering offers payment plans with no interest.
Expand your scholarship search: Think of scholarships in terms of an ongoing search that continues throughout your college years. In addition to high school performance-based scholarships, count colleges and businesses (both local and national) among the biggest sources of scholarships.