Kids can help with the College Bill

With the cost of higher education today (and with all expectations pointing to prices only rising in the future), it's understandable that parents find themselves looking under every rock and in every cranny for ways to help fund their kids' collegiate expenses. Of course, there are numerous loans, financial aid, and college-funding programs available for virtually every student. But here are some tips and suggestions – some you might have thought of, some not – that may allow Junior and The Little Princess to actually help you foot the bill for their degrees. A word of warning, though: some of these points may be a little more popular with your prospective student than others.

Enroll in community college. Cash-conscious students who spend their first two years attending a community college may be able to save as much as fifty percent on their tuition bill and still receive a solid, accredited education in the basic courses, which is what they'd be studying during their first two years at a traditional four-year institution anyway. In addition, community college students (most of whom are commuters) don't have to pay for room, board and other costs associated with on-campus living. Students who do well academically in community college are also more likely to qualify for a favorable financial aid package, or perhaps even an academic scholarship to the four-year college. And, the community college environment can help to ease the transition from high school for many students.

If not community college, at least attend a public school. Although public universities may not necessarily carry the status of an Ivy League institution, they also don't carry the staggeringly high price tag. Generally speaking, private colleges can cost as much as twice that of public universities; they also tend to be subject to larger tuition hikes.

Live on campus and eat in the cafeteria. Unless they're splitting the cost of off-campus housing and food with several others, dormitories are the most economical housing option for college students. Additionally, off-campus living can be more expensive because students have to contend with paying for utilities, trash collection, and other related expenses that are automatically taken care of in the dormitory. Meal plans can also be very handy for budget-minded college students.

Get a part-time job. Though undoubtedly one of the less-favored choices of the list by your future doctor or lawyer, this activity can prove invaluable, nonetheless. When students are able to handle some of their own expenses, it helps to build discipline, maturity, and self-reliance. A job can also provide experience that could be added to a resume`, along with contacts who can be of help when the student is ready to venture out into the real world.

Get good grades. Students who earn below a "C" in a course are often required to retake it (when it's needed for the advanced field of study); that, of course, means paying for the class again. And don't forget that scholarships can be earned at any time during the college career, not just before the freshman year. Good study habits can pay dividends in more ways than one.

Buy and sell used textbooks. Nowadays, a single textbook can easily cost $100 to $150 or more for some courses. Multiply that by the average number of five courses per semester (for full-timers), plus the fact that some courses require more than one book, and you could easily be looking at a $600 to $1,000 bill. Most schools, however, have a buy-back policy at the end of the semester. If the course is being offered again and the same text is being used, the campus bookstore will refund a portion of the purchase price in exchange for the book (in good condition, of course). Students who signed up for the course in the future can purchase the used texts and save money, as well.

Join the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). High school students or graduates who are college-bound can apply for this program. They can receive financial assistance that covers a full four-year tuition, textbooks, and fees. An ROTC scholarship is not required for participation in the Corps, however.

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