This was originally published on Monday, February 2, 2015, in the Pacific Daily News. Click here to subscribe to the PDN.
Question: I have a son who is a junior in high school. He wants to go off island for college and I would love to send him to the college of his choice. I am worried that I am not financially prepared for this transition. Could you help me fulfill my son’s education goals?
Answer: Your situation is quite common. Many people find that with the rise in the cost of living, saving for their child’s college education is very difficult. Many don’t think about it until it is too late. The mortgage/rent, utilities, food and other necessities must be paid first. By the time all bills are paid, putting money aside for financial goals may be almost impossible. The good news is that there are many ways your son can continue his education without you taking on the full cost.
Before he graduates, your son and you should talk to his school guidance counselor. The sooner you do this the better, since many schools open registration early in the year for the fall semester. Your son’s school guidance counselor has many resources for you to explore.
• Advanced Placement (AP) classes: Many schools offer AP classes to students that carry a certain grade point average. At the end of the school year, a college-level exam program, or CLEP, is administered. If the student passes the CLEP, the high school course will counts as college credits. This could save you thousands of dollars.
• Financial aid: The Federal Student Aid program is the largest provider of college assistance in the nation. According to the Federal Student Aid website, it provides more than $150 billion in federal grants, loans and work-study funds to more than 13 million students each year. To learn more or to apply, go to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid at https://fafsa.ed.gov. The program is based on income, but do not let that deter you. Applying could result in a great opportunity.
• Grants: Another popular avenue that students can pursue to help pay for college is grants. Grants are better than financial aid or student loans because it is free money for college. The student or parent does not have to pay the grant back as long as they satisfy the terms of the grant. The Federal Pell Grant is a commonly known program. This program allows low-income students the opportunity to pursue undergraduate and some post-baccalaureate degrees. Visit the U.S. Department of Education’s website athttp://www.ed.gov.
• Student loans: Unlike grants, student loans must be repaid. There are two ways to get a student loan. One is from the federal government, and the other is from a private lender such as a bank or other financial institution. A federal loan usually has lower interest rates and does not require a credit check. Do not borrow more than what is needed. You will eventually have to repay it. The more you borrow, the more interest you will have to pay in the end. Usually a federal student loan has a more flexible repayment plan than most private financial institutions.
• Scholarships: Your child’s guidance counselor at his high school will be familiar with local scholarships. You can also do research online for other scholarships. Many organizations and religious institutions offer scholarships. Most scholarships allow you to use more than one scholarship at a time.
• Merit aid: The National Merit Scholarship Program can also assist in paying for college tuition. Go to www.nationalmerit.org for more information.
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 email@example.com and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com.