College tuition is rising at a rate four times that of overall inflation.
With the old principals of supply and demand, demand for higher education being up right now, and changes in state and federal programs for need-based assistance, students headed to college can expect more financial challenges.
David Wilhelm, a financial instructor with Metropolitan Community College, urges parents to start saving as much as they can when their children hit grade school, if not sooner. "529 College Savings plans that are available allow parents to contribute toward that future educational cost and off-set the rising cost of inflation which currently is averaging 8-percent a year."
He urges parents and/or students to look at tax credits like the American Opportunity Tax Credit. It lets people claim up to $2,500 a year for tuition and related fees like books. The lifetime learning credit is designed for those going back to school for career or general enrichment, and it allows up to $2,000 claimed each year.
College-bound seniors should be looking at scholarships this time of year, if they haven’t already begun that process said Westside High School’s College Counselor, Mike McCann. And he points out, college is not for everybody.
For those who do want to pursue a higher education, he said, “I think students need to really look at what does that school have to offer that maybe I want. I think it's so important for seniors and even younger students to get on campuses and see what they're like."
Still, he said, three three-fourths of students wind up going to college within a one-state radius. Their comfort level and affordability are the major factors.
Once students graduate, they won’t likely be earning top salaries, so Wilhelm suggests consolidating any existing student loans as much as possible to form a single payment that would fit within their budgets. He suggests using any tax refunds or bonuses to make bigger lump payments, to pay down that debt.