Last-Minute Ways to Pay for College

Been putting off saving for tuition so long that your child's already in high school? Never fear -- these savvy strategies will help you secure the cash you need.
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2 Smart Moves

Financial advisers agree that the best way to save for college is to start early, but circumstances don't always allow you to follow that sage advice. And if your baby is college-bound just a few years from now, a traditional savings strategy won't cut it.

For the 2004-2005 academic year, the average cost of tuition and fees at a private four-year college totals $20,082, up 6 percent from last year; for a public college, it's $5,132, up 10.5 percent. And that doesn't include room and board. But even if you're getting a late start, these five smart moves can help you find money for those daunting college bills.

Smart Move No. 1: Try a Tuition-Payment Plan

Many colleges, partnering with financial institutions, offer tuition-payment plans (also called tuition-management programs). These are short-term installment plans that let you pay a year's tuition in equal monthly sums (instead of shelling out for a whole year or semester up front) at no interest and for reasonable fees (which vary depending on the university and the amount you owe).

"These plans give you the ability to work with a cash-flow schedule," points out Gerard Papetti, a certified financial planner with U.S. Financial Services, in Fairfield, New Jersey.

Smart Move No. 2: Negotiate, Negotiate, Negotiate

Close to 60 percent of students receive some form of financial aid. A college's financial aid offer may consist of grants, loans, work-study, or a combination. Know the school's deadlines for submitting your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and file it and any other forms promptly -- but don't just accept the college's first offer. If you don't ask for more, you'll never get it. "Remind the aid officer if your child has other siblings at the college, or point out your student's nonacademic talents, like music or sports," recommends Theresa Rosen, a certified financial planner with Prudence Financial, in Sudbury, Massachusetts. "Each school is unique, so find out what might persuade yours."

But think carefully about your approach. Acting entitled, whining, or threatening to send your teen elsewhere can lessen the school's willingness to work with you. Instead, call the aid officer to make an appointment, be genuine and explain your situation honestly. Aid officers are bombarded by parents who all want more, but they will try to help those who really need it.

Continued on page 2:  3 Secret Money Sources


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