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Tips for Cutting College Costs – Parents of College Students

Parent of college students, these tips for cutting cutting college costs will help you achieve financial goals (can you say “retirement”?)! These money tips are from financial planner Marc R. Hill.

“If you’re the parent of a high school student you may soon be faced with a very tough decision,” says Hill. “Should you continue funding your retirement plan, or help pay for your child’s college education?”

If you’re the parent of a college freshman, you’re looking at at least three years of tuition and book costs. Read College Cost Cutting Tips: Get Your Degree Quicker And Cheaper Than You Ever Thought Possible for more financial help.

And, here are three tips for cutting college education costs and saving for retirement.

Tips for Cutting College Costs – Parents of College Students

Parents who need help paying for college tuition often turn to the financial aid system. While you may be uncertain about prioritizing retirement contributions versus college expenses, the financial aid system is quite clear about how they view your retirement contributions. According to “the system”, money contributions can be used to help pay for your child’s education, and you can play “catch up” with your retirement at a later point.  

Here are three ways to shave your out-of-pocket college expenses and keep your retirement contributions flowing….and help your child be successful at college!

1. Understand Financial Aid at College

Understanding how each college packages financial aid is an essential part of receiving the “best” financial aid package. Many universities are required to include a minimum amount of self-help aid before any grant or gifted (free) money is awarded. Self-help aid includes interest-subsidized or unsubsidized loans and work study programs that must be repaid through financial obligation or service to the school or state. 

So, what’s the best strategy for cutting college costs? Applying to schools that historically award a higher percentage of grants or gifted money and a lower “self-help level” can stretch your educational dollars. 

2. Understand the “Ideal Student” 

To cut college costs, apply to schools that are “looking” for your student. Post-secondary institutions attempt to meet enrollment goals by giving better financial aid packages to students that they feel offer the “best fit” for their school. Understanding what your selected institutions are looking for and matching your needs to theirs, can improve your chances of receiving a generous student loan package.

A good starting point would be to apply to schools where your child academically is in the top 15-25% (SAT, ACT, Subject Tests, G.P.A) of the incoming freshman class. This information can be found by doing a word search on the prospective school’s website for the phrase, “Freshman Class Profile.”  

And if your child is a good “match,” never underestimate the power of a phone call. Establishing relationships with alumni, admissions, financial aid and academic personnel prior to formal application can go a long way in reducing out of pocket expenses.

3. Apply to College Early, Think About Scholarships

Colleges are often under pressure to meet early deadlines for enrollment goals. To help meet their goals, some institutions will award merit scholarships to students who apply early in their senior year. This is one of the easiest ways to cut college costs. So, get busy filling out college applications as soon as your child starts his or her senior year!

If you’re worried about your child at college, read How to Prepare for College – What You Need to Know.

If you have any questions, comments, or tips for cutting college costs – please share below!

Marc R. Hill, a financial planner by training, is a publisher and coach who helps families discover ways to dramatically cut college costs while protecting retirement accounts. Visit him at

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2 thoughts on “Tips for Cutting College Costs – Parents of College Students”

  1. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for your tip for cutting college costs, Stuart! Wow — it sounds like your daughter’s tuition was dramatically decreased. I hope this helps other parents.

  2. I have a great tip for reducing college tuition. I have 3 daughters in college. On the internet I was able to locate a lot of different grants and scholarships that were designed to pay college tuition costs. The problem I ran into was that I had a difficult time finding them again and I was not all that computer savvy. As someone with little patience I downloaded an ebook called Secrets to getting free college tuition Revealed, which I had stumbled upon during one of my searches. I found it to be very helpful getting me to grants sources that I had not found before. In addition to providing the links to get me directly to the source of the grant or scholarship, it provided me with help and preparation to get through the process quicker and with less stress. I received grants totaling more than 80% of my daughter’s tuition! If you are interested click my name above for more information.