Many options exist to pay for kids’ education

This was originally published on Monday, February 24, 2014, in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

Question: I have a senior in high school. Do you have any advice on helping with the cost of college?

Answer: If you don’t have enough for college, don’t worry. There are many ways to help your child go to college. Do not withdraw from your retirement. That should be used strictly for your retirement. Be prepared because many colleges require an application fee. Sometimes, if you apply early, many of those fees are lowered.

• FAFSA: If you don’t think you will qualify, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Visit https://fafsa.ed.gov/ for more information and to register

• Grants: One of the most popular grants is the Pell Grant, a need-based grant for low-income students to access post-secondary education. Consider the Academic Competitiveness Grant and National SMART Grants. For information on either of these grants, visit the U.S. Department of Education’s website at http://www.ed.gov. Grants are better than loans because you do not have to repay them.

• Local scholarships: Look around our community. There are many local businesses, civic organizations and religious institutions that offer scholarships.

• Your employer: Your job may offer scholarships to help children of their employees attend college. Check with your human resources department.

• GI Bill: If you or your spouse have been active duty or served as a reservist, your GI Bill can be transferred to your children. Go to www.gibill.va.gov for more information on your GI Bill.

• Training corps: There are some programs that offer to pay most, if not all, of your college expenses in exchange for a service commitment. Look into the ROTC, Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, Peace Corps, AmeriCorps or Health Services Corps.

• Merit aid: The National Merit Scholarship Program is another popular aid for help pay for college. For more information, go to www.nationalmerit.org.

• Student loans: The federal government provides college loans, go to www.studentloans.gov. Some colleges and universities also offer student loans along with banks and financial institutions. These are real loans, so be sure to understand the repayment process, interest rate and any consequences if your child doesn’t finish school.

• Institutional aid: Some of the learning institutions will offer aid or scholarships. Take a look at their websites or call the admissions or financial office and see if they can work with you.

• Work/study opportunities: Many students go to college and take on a part-time or full-time job. Many businesses around the campus look to hire college students. On-campus work/study opportunities are perfect, especially if it is in the field of study of which your child will be graduating.

• High school guidance counselor: Work hand-in-hand with your child’s high school guidance counselor. He or she will know of many opportunities to help get your child’s college tuition paid, plus they are free.

These are just a few ways that you can help pay for college now. You may use a combination of these payment opportunities. Kids may have a dream school that may not be within our budget, but there is nothing wrong with attending a junior college or other university and transferring later, especially to avoid out-of-state tuition. Studying abroad or attending a local university or college is another possibility.

Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at moneymattersguam@yahoo.com and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com.

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