Paying for College After Freshman Year

Where to find money for year two and beyond.

by Anne Vaccaro Brady

Yes, your family found a way to pay your freshman’s college tuition bill, which might have  included using one-and-done local scholarships, Grandma’s contribution to the 529 account and/or cashing in your kid’s savings bonds. Now your family is wondering where you’ll find the money for sophomore year. Read on for suggestions on ways you and your student can save on college costs and where to make extra money to help pay the bill. None of it involves raiding your retirement account; a definite no-no.

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Your student
Apply to be an RA: Resident assistants (RA) for campus housing receive free room and board at most colleges. Yes, the position comes with a lot of responsibility, and your student will be one of the first back to campus and the last to leave, but that’s worth the $8,000-$13,000 in savings.

Become a TA or research assistant: Students who do very well in a class may be asked to serve as a teaching assistant (TA) in that class next semester. Sometimes there’s a stipend, but more often undergraduate TAs receive credits. If your student can handle the time commitment, she’ll earn “free” credit toward graduation as well as develop a strong relationship with her professor whom she’ll need for a grad school recommendation.

Undergraduate research assistants usually receive a stipend because professors obtain funding for their research. In addition to making money and establishing a stronger relationship with a professor, your student will hopefully be working in her program of study, gaining valuable experience.

Eat, sleep and park cheaper: Off-campus living almost always costs less than college housing. With my own kids, we saved a few thousand dollars each year. Let your student make the move sophomore year.

If your undergrad plans to (or must) stay on campus, he should choose a dorm with a lower price tag than where he lived freshman year, even if it means moving a little further away from his academic buildings. Along with saving money, he’ll build in a daily cardio workout.

Picking a cheaper meal plan makes sense for kids who didn’t use up all their points/blocks/meals freshman year. Make sure your student checks his fall semester schedule to determine if he’s really going to make the effort to hit the dining hall three times a day.

Students who commute to campus or have a car at college should look into a less expensive parking spot, probably in an outer lot. Make sure the lot is well lit and in a safe area. Off-campus housing can come with free parking at the complex or free or permit-based on-street parking.

Reconsider sending your student back to college with a car. The savings on insurance, gas, servicing, parking, etc. can all be applied toward tuition payments.

Work for a semester Some colleges offer their students Co-operative Education (Co-op) experiences. These paid, semester-long internships allow students to work full-time in their field of study while earning money to help pay for their next semester.

Take advantage of student discounts That student ID card can be the ticket to cheap or free tickets to movies, concerts, sporting events, museums, etc. on and off-campus. Students can also save at national retailers like J. Crew and Banana Republic, among others. Encourage your student to check her college’s website for a complete list of discounts.

Spend less on textbooks Next year, forget buying textbooks via the campus bookstore. Get smart and go the rent-a-book route or purchase from an online retailer to save some serious money.

College graduation stock photoGraduate early Obtaining an undergraduate degree in three years instead of four can add up to big savings. Taking advantage of AP/IB credits earned in high school, signing up for summer classes at your local community college and/or fitting in an extra course online can all help a kid with limited funds save a year’s tuition. Students should also consider an accelerated degree program that allows them to earn their bachelor’s and master’s/doctorate degrees in a shorter timeframe.

Convert to a student bank account These types of  bank accounts have lower minimum balance requirements and often no fees unless you go over the maximum number of ATM withdrawals or other transactions.

Look for scholarships/grants for upperclassmen Colleges often offer specific financial awards for upperclassmen based on grades, program of study, accomplishments in their major, etc. Check the college’s financial aid page as well as your student’s academic department page to find these awards.

Find a job on or off-campus My kids didn’t qualify for work-study, but in her junior year my daughter found a non work-study job on campus by searching her college’s job board, which your student should, too.

When there’s nothing available on campus, look to businesses around a college, which hire students during the school year. It helps if your kid can be around during breaks. 

You
Inform your car insurance company that your student is away at college You will receive a discount during those months your undergrad is on campus. Also, share your student’s GPA with the insurance company because some give discounts for honors students.

Pencil and calculatorContact the financial aid office This is especially important if your family’s been hit by a job loss or medical setback that will prevent you from providing the same support as you did freshman year. You’ll report your status change  on your FAFSA, but it’s helpful to talk to a live person with whom you can explain your unique circumstances.

Fill out FAFSA in October Take advantage of the earlier FAFSA filing date to learn what your EFC will be for the next school year. Knowing your expected contribution so soon will help your family better plan how to pay for college next year.

Put savings into a 529 account Place any money realized from the above suggestions into a 529 college savings account, which can reduce your state income taxes depending upon where you live. And, of course, use the refund you receive on your taxes to help pay next year’s tuition.

Share your advice and experience on helping your student pay for college after freshman year in the comments section below.

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