Whether your post high school education is vocational or academic training, the required years of study and can be very expensive. A college education can cost more than $100,000 at a private university. Among colleges and universities, government-sponsored schools, especially two-year community colleges, have the lowest costs. A vocational education, to prepare students for a particular trade such as electronics, cosmetology, medical assisting or bookkeeping, can require less than four years to complete but still cost as much as $20,000.
Education costs include:
- Tuition – the charge for instruction and use of facilities
- Room and board – charges for housing and meals
- Various fees, such as those for activities, parking, health care
- Books and supplies
The best way to ensure your child has enough money to pay for a post-secondary education is to start setting aside savings every month when the child is a baby. Starting early will allow you to put your funds in federally insured savings and let compound interest add significantly to what you save. For example, $29 invested every month at 5 percent interest will yield $10,000 after 18 years. If you start saving when your child is 12, you will need to save $119 a month at 5 percent to have $10,000 when your child is 18.
There are many sources and types of financial aid available to qualified post-secondary students. They include:
- Grants and scholarships that are gifts that do not need to be repaid.
- Government and private education loans that usually do not have to be repaid until the student is out of school. Failure to repay a loan can ruin a student’s or parent’s credit rating and make future borrowing difficult.
- Work-study programs offered by some educational institutions to allow students to work while they are in school, often on campus, to offset some costs.
- Students may qualify for financial aid based on the following:
- Merit, that is, the student’s excellent academic, athletic or artistic performance in high school
- Financial need
The best sources of information on financial aid are:
- The world-wide Web. Go to http://studentaid.ed.gov/ as a starting point.
- High school counselors
- Individual schools’ student financial aid offices