If you have a child in high school, particularly starting senior year, this could be a stressful time for both of you. Expect your teen to pull her hair out applying to colleges. You, on the other hand, will likely be anxiety-ridden dealing with financial aid forms and figuring out how to pay for school without sending your family into massive debt.
One way to alleviate the pressure is to consider an in-state public college as this is a viable way for Junior to both get a solid education and graduate with substantially less debt. While in-state tuition can vary widely depending on where you live, it will typically cost substantially less than it would to attend a private school or even a public school in another state. Once you factor in scholarships and grants only available to in-state residents, the price goes down even more.
At the University of Massachusetts Amherst, for example, in-state tuition is $14,356 and out-of-state tuition is more than double that at $30,689. Adding in other expenses like room and board, these fees rise to $28,784 a year for in-state students and $45,117 for out of state residents, according to college comparison site Collegedata. This is still a savings compared to tuition at an average four-year private college, which will run you about $42,224, according to The College Board. This doesn’t count room and board – when you add this in, you’re talking more like $60,000 a year.
Live out of state? You can still get in-state tuition
Saving on tuition at in-state schools is certainly a key way to reduce your costs and Junior’s future student loan debt. But what if he simply can’t get past the allure of going away to school? If this is the case, you may want to take a look at some tuition exchange programs where you can take advantage of lower tuition rates at public schools in other states. For example, New England Board of Higher Education’s (NEBHE) Tuition Break Program, called the New England Regional Student Program (RSP), offers residents of the six New England states the ability to enroll at other New England public colleges and receive discounted tuition. The caveat: To qualify, their intended major must not be available at their own in-state colleges. Nonetheless, in the 2015-2016 academic year, 8,958 RSP students saved about $58 million in tuition through the exchange and the average full-time student received about $7,515 in yearly savings.
Other similar exchange programs include the Midwest Student Exchange Program (MSEP), comprised of nine Midwest states, and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), made up of 15 Western states.
3 other ways to save
If you decide on a public school in-state, you’ve won most of the battle when it comes to saving money. But there are still other ways to save by sending Junior to college close to home. Take a look:
1. Save on health care costs
Yup. You will likely save thousands of dollars on this front as many schools require you to pay for the university’s health care plan and services if you live out of state. However, if you can prove Junior is covered on your in-state health insurance policy, many colleges will waive this yearly fee. On a personal note, I am knocking $2,159 off my son’s 2016-2017 bill at Northeastern University by filing a health care waiver for Massachusetts residents. This adds up – I’ll save more than $10,000 over the life of his college education.
2. Save on travel costs
Yes, this one is a given. But many parents don’t consider the real costs of airline flights so Junior can get to college and then come home for holidays, breaks and family events. Even driving long distances will cost you in gas and possible hotel expenses. And what about the cost to buy to items that won’t fit in a suitcase? Sure, you may still have to buy a microwave, dorm fridge, school supplies and more if you live locally, but there’s a higher chance you can borrow these items or send Junior to school with supplies you already have at home.
3. Save on living costs
For this one, let’s just assume Junior will not live at home, even if he attends school nearby. My son actually said he’d rather pound his head against the wall than live with us in our Boston house only 10 minutes away from campus. I get it: Even though he is about to move into a grossly overpriced pit of an apartment with three roommates, this is part of the college experience. So, how does going to school in-state save you money on living expenses? For starters, Junior may be able to store furniture and other items over the summer with you or another relative rather than pay storage fees or sell furniture just to buy the same things all over again. My garage is now filled with my son’s couch, kitchen table, bed and dresser. Also, there are some times during the year when your child can still move back home – for short spurts – while attending college. In our case, my son worked at a co-op job through Northeastern from January until June. Yet, he had to move out the dorm last April, so he begrudgingly moved home for the last two months of his job (and stayed for the whole summer!) If we didn’t live locally, we would have had to fork over more than $2,000 for the dorm for the extra two months.
Is your kid heading off to school in the fall? Let us know in the comments what you plan on doing to save money.