By: Joe Walsh
Everyone knows the economy is in rough shape. If you are a college student with a middle class upbringing, money can be very tight when the tuition bill comes. For a student that has a sibling about to enter college, money can be even more of an issue.
Unfortunately, there aren’t an abundance of scholarships that erase a full four year’s of college bills. Oprah and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition have the market cornered on those for their lucky recipients.
Fortunately, there are strategies to help ease the burden. Joseph Weglarz, the Executive Director of Student Financial Services at Marist College, sat down with The River Reporter last week to discuss how to best make the financial burden of college easier on students and their families.
It’s a Jigsaw Puzzle
“I always tell people that ask me how to best pay for college to treat it like a jigsaw puzzle,” Weglarz said. “You have to find multiple ways supplement the cost of college.”
That means those cure-all scholarships mentioned before really are a rarity. Weglarz suggest to use some of the following programs and strategies to
The 529 Plan
“Most people don’t know about this but it can be one of the pieces you use to ease the burden financially.”
There are two subcategories of the 529 Plan: pre-paid tuition plans and college savings plans.
The pre-paid plan lets someone purchase college credits early at a locked in rate. It is only
available for participating universities, but state governments generally guarantee the investment. On the downside it does not cover costs like room and board
The college savings plan is a bit more flexible when it comes to what the money goes towards. Account holders have the money they put in invested for them. On the downside, the investments are riskier and are not usually covered by the state.
If you did not notice, this is something that requires you to save ahead of time for school.
Off Campus Housing
Even though Marist provides on campus housing, Weglarz says, “You can find more affordable housing off campus.”
The trade-off here obviously is the convenience of location with on campus housing and the added expense of gas to commute.
You probably heard of this from your high school guidance counselor. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is received by the federal government and determines if you need federal assistance.
Weglarz admits however that the average middle class family does not receive much from the FASFA.
“The FASFA doesn’t take into account fact that you may have a mortgage or how much the cost of living is where you live,” Weglarz said. “The government does encourage students and families to contact the school and try to work something out with them.”
Marist College has a wide range of scholarships students can apply for. They are easily accessible from the Marist Web site. They are awarded based on need and academic major.
“A lot of them have specific requirements, but if you find one that’s for you, you should definitely apply,” Weglarz suggested.
You also need a teacher recommendation for them, so be sure to talk to a professor about getting one.
“Like I said,” Weglarz concluded. “There is no one solution to paying for a higher education. You have to approach it from different sides. Like I said before, it’s like a jigsaw puzzle.”