Don’t believe the hype: Even with rising costs, going to college pays off. College graduates earn on average a million dollars more in their lifetime compared to those with only a high school education.
Getting an education doesn’t even have to mean the traditional four years at a university. Community colleges, vocational schools and online programs offer new ways for more students to improve their futures.
Whether you have a settlement, a trust fund, taking loans or receive Veterans education benefits, making sound financial decisions can help along the way, whichever path to education you choose.
Part of financial literacy is knowing just how much you’re spending by attending a school. Each college provides an up-to-date figure on how much a student should expect to spend each year. Called “cost of attendance,” the figure includes tuition, fees, room and board, books, personal expenses, supplies and transportation.
Here’s a sample cost of attendance from Texas A&M University. The amount is for two full time semesters (or one traditional school year) for someone getting a Bachelor’s degree.
|University Tuition and Fees|
|In-State||Out-of-State||In-State at Home With Parents|
|Tuition & Fees||$9,428||$28,020||$9,428|
|Room & Board||$10,338||$10,338||$4,950|
|Books & Supplies||$1,194||$1,194||$1,194|
So let’s take an in-depth look at what these numbers include – and what they don’t include.
From here you can begin to set up your basic budget, with how much you’ll be paying the school and how much you need to have to meet your needs. On the top, list how much you have from your settlement, and list out each deduction with the data from your school or university.
When you run the numbers on some of the schools you’re interested in you may become discouraged. However, you should apply to a variety of schools. Some may have a higher sticker price but offer more in grants and scholarships. Especially if you know you are a competitive candidate, it’s wise to apply and examine what scholarships are included in your offer letter.
College students have several options on how to spend their time outside of college. Some choose to work part-time, while others choose to participate in clubs and organizations that may lead to a job post-graduation.
A majority of students work during college. In 2011, 71 percent of undergraduate students were employed. And it can come with perks outside of just a paycheck. Some companies, like UPS and Bank of America, will help employees pay for college, offering a stipend each month towards tuition and fees.
Internships are a great way for students to gain experience in a field and learn on the job skills that help them gain a job after college. Having a structured settlement or other external income coming in may allow a student to take an unpaid internship while still having reliable income coming in.
Joining a Debate Team or Robotics club may not seem like the same thing as having a job at first blush. However, building skills while meeting like-minded individuals helps your job prospects after college, and can occupy about the same amount of time as a part time job.
College is when young adults establish themselves financially. And there’s a lot that can go wrong along the way.
Settlements constructed for minors typically have four lump sums scheduled each year after the child turns 18 in order to pay for college. Or in the case of a trust fund, one large amount of money might become suddenly available. Those with settlement payments can also sell some of their future payments to receive a lump sum.
Watch out for:
Monthly payments from a structured settlement or Veterans benefits can be a great way for someone to support themselves during college.
Watch out for:
If college was easy, everyone would go. However, only 33 percent of Americans have a Bachelor’s degree – partially because 44 percent of people who start a four year degree don’t graduate.
University staff members are there to help. Working within the school allows them to understand loopholes and resources that you may not know about. If you find you’re struggling, ask for their recommendations. If they can’t help you, they’ll be able to tell you who can. For instance, if you’re having trouble affording colleges, talking to the Financial Aid office could help you find opportunities you didn’t even know were available.
Other setbacks come in the academic setting. Sometimes a class seems just plain impossible. Or you fail a test because you’re dealing with the death of a loved one. In moments like these you should schedule time to talk to your professors. Professors are people too – people who spent a lot of time learning, who’ve had their struggles and have people they care about. Before dropping a class or continuously failing to show up, have a conversation with your professor.
Whatever you do, don’t give up.