6 Smart Ways to Help Kids Save on College Tuition Costs

Saving for college

Getting kids into college is daunting enough, but thinking about how to pay for it can be downright terrifying. Unfortunately, in this case, ignorance is not bliss. Stuffing your piggy bank with loose change every chance you get isn't going to cut it this time. The more prepared you are, the better off you and your student will be. So, what are some other ways you can creatively save for higher education?


Cameron Huddleston, columnist for GOBankingRates.com, shares six tips that can help your child earn a degree without graduating with a mountain of debt. 

1. Take AP classes.

"Encourage your children who are up for the challenge academically to take as many advanced placement courses high schools [offer]. If they score high enough on AP exams, they'll earn college credit -- which means fewer courses they'll have to take in college and a smaller bill to complete their degree," explains Huddleston.

With a lighter class load, perhaps your student can pick up a part-time job and keep that cash coming in!

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2. Saving beats borrowing.

"Of course, saving for college rather than borrowing will cost you less over the long term," Huddleston points out. "The best way to save is through a 529 college savings plan. Almost all states offer a 529 plan, but you can invest in any state’s plan, not just your own, and the money can be used for tuition at any school, not just schools in the state with the 529 plan in which you’ve invested.

"However, if your state offers a tax deduction or credit (and more than half do) for contributions to its 529 plan, you should opt for your state’s plan. Funds in a 529 plan can grow because the money is invested in assets such as mutual funds. And the money can be withdrawn tax-free for qualified education expenses."

If you want to see just how much socking away funds for college can save you versus borrowing, Huddleston recommends checking out an online comparison overview.

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3. Take advantage of a family discount.

"My husband actually is a professor at a state university, which allows dependents to attend for half price," Huddleston says. "So if our children go to school where he teaches, we'll save 50 percent on the cost of their education. Some schools are even more generous."

For example, if you work for a school that is part of the Council of Independent Colleges, your children can attend any of the more than 400 member colleges tuition-free, the finance expert notes.

"You don't necessarily have to be a professor, but you do have to be a full-time employee," Huddleston explains. "So it might be worth looking into job openings at a nearby college or university that offers a tuition benefit for family members as a way to lower the cost of college."

4. Start locally.

"Families can keep down the cost of a college education by having their child start their education at a lower-cost community college [and] then transfer to a state university to complete their degree. Just make sure credits will transfer," Huddleston notes.

Plus, if your student lives at home during these years, you're saving on the additional cost of room and board.

5. Think long-game.

"If you have a bright child who's been accepted into a top-notch private university but has been offered a full ride or grants from another school, you'd be smart not to pass up the free money -- even if it's not from your child's dream school," the personal finance expert says. "It might be a little disappointing, but it won't be nearly as disappointing as a big student loan bill that has to be paid each month after graduation."

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6. Find an employer that will provide financial support.

"Another option is to look for employment after high school (or a couple of years into college) with a company that provides education benefits," Huddleston notes. "For example, I know a young woman who spent a few years in college but couldn't settle on a major. She decided to stop wasting time and money by taking a break from college and getting a job with a bank. The bank will actually help her cover the cost of returning to school when she decides to go back. She plans to return and get a degree in finance -- with financial support from her employer."

Pretty savvy! Remember: Knowledge is power, so keep these ideas in mind.


Image via Arina P Habich/Shutterstock

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