5 Ways To Pay for College in Tough Times

Dear College Made Simple Reader,

$20,140 per year and $40,993 per year.

Those are the new average costs of college for in-state universities and private colleges, according to the College Board’s “Trends In College Pricing” for 2010-11.

Multiply that figure by four and then multiply that number again by the number of kids you have. A family with just two college-bound kids is looking at a college bill between $161,120 and $327,944.

The figures are outrageous! (and getting worse.) But there are many things you can do to lower the overall cost of college, which is the focus of today’s College Made Simple report. Enjoy…

– Scott


Current College Financing Options

When it comes down to it, many families are faced with two options…

Option #1: Give up. Just throw in the towel. Send your child to community college or simply avoid college altogether.

Option #2: Dig deeper into every source imaginable to figure out how to get your child to their dream college – a school that will give them an enormous advantage the rest of their life.

The large majority of parents I’ve spoken with over the years have chosen option #2. They’ve been digging deeper and deeper into every college funding source possible.

That’s why I’ve listed here for you the 5 best strategies to help pay for college during these challenging times…

College Financing Strategy 1: Need-based & Merit-Based Financial Aid

What better way than to have someone else foot the bill… or at least part of the bill. The best way to do that is to put yourself in the absolute best position to maximize the two major sources of free money for college. I’ve included both sources below, along with the key steps you need to take for each…

Free money source #1: Need based financial aid 

Free money source #2: Merit based financial aid.

This one is done by utilizing the following strategies:

  • Follow these tips to increase your ACT and SAT test scores.
  • Searching and pairing your child with the right school. And when I say the right school, I mean the school where your child may be viewed as a star (whether it be academic, athletic, music, etc.)
  • Getting colleges to compete for your student using proven negotiating techniques.

College Financing Strategy #2: Select the Right College

This is perhaps the trickiest one on the list. There are literally thousands of colleges to choose from. And the financial and merit based aid for each school is not readily available for parents. It can be found, but it does require some knowledge and experience on where to look.

And yet, finding this information is critical. It is absolutely necessary to know what percentage of need met a college typically pays out, if you want to maximize the free money your child can get for college. On top of that, you’ll want to find out what percentage of gift aid each college typically gives in free money and what percentage is in loans and work-study. Some schools will meet a high percentage of need met. But only a small percentage of the need is filled with free money with the rest in loans and work-study. This is not a great deal. The goal is find the colleges that not only meet a high percentage of need met – but also give a high percentage in free money.

Get a better picture on your financial aid situation

College Financing Strategy #3: Explore Work-Study Opportunities

Both kids and parents share in the cost of college. There is no doubt that you’re going to put some of your monthly income and current savings towards college costs. So why shouldn’t you have your child do the same? There are numerous additional benefits to having your child work and pay for college other than the obvious. In fact the US Department of Labor did a study that concluded that college students who work 20 hours or less get better grades (and also have a higher chance of graduating.)

Or – you can have your child take out loans for college. Student loans often have better terms than parent loans. And you, the parent, can always help your kids pay those loans back down the road.

College Financing Strategy #4: File Financial Aid Award Appeal

Most parents assume that the initial financial package a college offers them is final. Please don’t make this mistake. Colleges are a business. They need students to the make the business work. And often times they will work with a family on getting a better financial and merit award package.

But, there is a right and wrong way to go about the appeal process. Step one is to determine if you received a fair offer. You can do this by comparing your initial offer with what the schools past track record is for financial aid. Step two: Use these 6 tips to write a financial aid appeal letter. In addition, you can use a better offer from a competing college to help improve the initial award package.

Don’t be afraid to appeal or negotiate with a college. This is a proven strategy that a lot of parents overlook.

College Financing Strategy #5: Reduce Non-tuition expenses

  • Live off-campus (or live at home if possible). Each of these can provide a huge savings on room and board.
  • Buy college books for less by using sites such as bookrenter.com, chegg.com, or half.com. Each of these sites offers textbooks for a fraction of their retail cost.
  • Select a meal plan that allows more flexibility by covering meals for the semester, rather than a weekly allotment.


There is one last strategy I’ll leave you with. And it’s arguably the most important one on this list.

Make a plan and take action on it. These strategies won’t work if you don’t put them into play. And if you’re strapped for time or unsure of the best way to take advantage of each of these cost slashing methods – get help from a qualified professional. They could potentially save you a lot of time, headaches, and money.

One easy way to get started (and doesn’t cost a thing) is to take us up on our Free College Funding Analysis. Follow this link to learn more.

To your family’s college success,

Scott Weingold
Co-Founder, College Planning Network, LLC
College Made Simple – The Free Educational Resource of the College Planning Network, LLC


Related Articles:

A Treasure Chest of Tips to Beat the High Cost of College

How to Negotiate the Best Deal on a College Education

How to Keep Your College Costs as Low as Possible

The Actual Cost of College



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Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by CollegeStats.org.  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of the widely renown College Planning Network, LLC – the nation’s largest and most reputable college admissions and financial aid planning firm. CPN is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of College Funding Advisors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational webinars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He's been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo News, TheStreet.com, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.  Scott has published numerous articles and is a professional speaker who has addressed thousands of audiences online and offline throughout the United States.  His actionable insights and candid, open approach have earned him & his team numerous media interviews, citations, and speaking opportunities, and his free online video workshop is one of the Internet’s most widely viewed pieces in the college funding space.