Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

Well,  that decade went quickly! We’re back in college financial planning phase again.

Almost 10 years ago,  Kira graduated from high school,  setting us down the path of FAFSAs, scholarships, and sticker shock at the cost of tuition. Since Kira was our first child to attend college,  it was all an adventure – but one we were fairly familiar with since Dave and I were both returning college students ourselves. Now, Parker is headed to college with Anika close on his heels, and we’re back in FAFSA mode. With more income and fewer dependents, it’s more painful this time.

While trying to manage the financial aspects of college planning, keep the following in mind:

Fill Out the FAFSA Early

Even if you have not filed your taxes, you can fill out the FASFA and at least get some of the preliminary paperwork out of the way. It’s all online, but not only does your student have to have a login but so do you. Start now. It will only get more stressful. Financial information from the FAFSA determine your expected family contribution (EFC) toward college and the minimum dollar amount that the student will be expected to pay. The assessment includes family assets, income, size and number of college-enrolled dependent children.

Beyond the FAFSA

College doesn’t come cheap—according to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2017–2018 school year was $34,740 at private colleges, $9,970 for state residents at public colleges, and $25,620 for out-of-state residents attending public universities. Research other options, such as scholarships and grants. Your student’s high school guidance counselor will have information about available scholarships, and there are also many online sources. Think outside the box and find out if your community has local scholarships for students, too.

Student Loans

Student loans are a must for most students. Subsidized loans are the best option for those who qualify, since the government covers interest while you’re in school. Unsubsidized loans are the next best choice, since they’re still interest-rate controlled. Private student loans are also an option, but there are no government protections with these loans. For really risk-friendly parents, there are PLUS loans, which are loans the parents take to pay for their kids’ education. Not us. We’re those rotten parents you hear about that tell our kids if they want to go to college they can pay for it and take on the debt themselves.

Save Money with Online College

Over half the cost of most schools is the room and board. If you can talk your child into it, have them start at a community college close to home from which they can commute, or even look at online schools. While some online schools have come under fire, there are many excellent programs from accredited colleges and universities available completely online. David and I both received our master’s degrees in English literature from an entirely online program through Mercy College. It was rigorous and demanding, but we did not have to live on campus or relocate to attend.


For most kids, college is a logical step forward toward a chosen career. If your child is pursuing a career that requires a college education, these tips may help you finance their effort with minimal stress.