OK, maybe it’s not all your fault. Colleges themselves have something to do with the high cost, but it’s definitely because of your choices. Are you one of those individuals who complain about the high cost of your college education? Are you a graduate that gets depressed every time you have to make a ridiculously high student loan payment? If so, could you have done things differently and still received an excellent higher education?
According to the College Board, the average total published charges for full-time undergraduate students by type for 2013-2014 are as follows: Public Four-Year-In-State $18,391; Public Four-Year-Out-of-State $31,707; Private Nonprofit Four-Year $40,917. According to another study released by the Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS), the average debt incurred for student loans had climbed to $29,400 for the class of 2012. The 2013 figure is up by almost 10 percent compared to the group estimate the year before of $26,600. This shows an increase of an average of six percent each year from 2008 to 2012. When students and parents are looking for someone to blame for the high cost of their college education, they should look first to themselves and reflect on what they could have done differently. Here are some things to consider.
1. You could have studied harder.
As colleges compete to attract the brightest students to their school, they are prepared to offer the best deals possible including a full ride. Many colleges will offer additional grants and scholarships to high school graduates with high GPA, SAT, ACT scores; these are called Merit-Base Scholarships.
2. You could have gotten more involved.
Most college athletes are attending school on an athletics scholarship, however if you are not athletically gifted there are many other extracurricular activities you could have gotten evolved in. Some colleges and universities offer special grants and scholarships to students with particular talents. Music, journalism, drama and volunteering are a few categories for which these awards are made. In addition to schools providing scholarships to students with special interests, community and government organizations do as well.
3. You could have fought for more free aid.
Just completing the FAFSA is not enough; nor is it the only step in applying for financial aid. One hundred and fifty billion in financial aid is awarded to college students each year and over one million scholarships. There are scholarships based on athletic ability, academic merit, disability, race, nationality, religious affiliation, location, financial need and more. With a little research and patience, you could have found a long list of scholarships for which you are eligible even within your own school and community.
4. You could have chosen a school and major that offered you the best financial aid incentives.
How did you choose the college you applied for? The one with the best reputation, prestige, because that where your friends and family attended or maybe because you like their football tea? Maybe you attended where your boyfriend/girlfriend is going. However, a more responsible way would have been to select the school that offered you the best financial aid package.
When it comes to choosing a major, there can be many factors to think about. Studies have shown that most people don’t work in the field that their degree is in; it would have been financially smart to have chosen a major with the best financial aid incentive. Scholarships and grants vary by major, so with a little research you could have found a college and career field that was in need of people to fill them and offer several financial incentives to those who pursue a major within those fields.
5. You could have stayed in-state and off-campus.
A state college or university charges lower fees to state residents. Since public institutions are subsidized by state revenues, their tuition costs are lower than private schools’ costs. Here are the facts: A student living at home can save as much as $6,000 per year. Some students choose to attend a community college for one or two years, and then transfer to a four-year school. Tuition costs are substantially lower at community colleges than at four-year institutions.
6. You could have served in the U.S. Military.
The military offers many educational benefits that service members can take advantage of during or after service. Service members have access to benefits that range from financial aid and college funds to programs that convert military training into college credits. Here are some of those programs: Tuition Assistance, Post-9/11 GI Bill, College Fund Programs, Loan Repayment Programs, Service Members Opportunity Colleges (SOC), Community College of the Air Force (CCAF), Testing Programs plus others.
7. You could have asked your employer and/or parent’s employer for help.
Many employers offer Employer Tuition Assistance Programs to their employees and their families. Your employer may offer you up to $5,250 in employer education assistance benefits for undergraduate or graduate courses tax-free each year, per section 127 of the Internal Revenue Code. Another smart strategy would have been to get a job working for a college because many colleges offer tuition-free education to their employees.
8. You could have been strategic with your FAFSA to maximize your awards.
Studies have shown that one out of every seven FAFSA forms are completed incorrectly causing students to leave money on the table. In addition, many students never question their financial aid awards. Here are a few things you could have done wrong: you waited too long to complete the FAFSA or worse you did not fill it out at all, you kept assets in the student name, you overstated assets and income, you didn’t update the financial aid office when circumstances changed.
9. You could have saved on those expensive books.
You could have rented or bought used textbooks, sold your old book and reinvested the money for the next set. You could have borrowed, traded or teamed up with classmates to share the books or the cost. Doing so would have saved you thousands yearly.
10. You could have kept your grades up.
Almost all college funding are tied into your grades, each time you withdrew or failed a class it may have cost you to retake plus kept you in school longer which also cost you. If you did not meet your school Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) policy you would have lost or been at risk of losing your Federal Student Aid plus any other scholarships, military benefits and even employer assistance benefits.