Alternative Approaches to Pay for College

Key Takeaways

  • Families with high school seniors are now in the season of college visits.
  • Paying for college can be a huge expense, with some colleges costing up to $85,000 per year.
  • There are some creative things families can do to help with the cost of college.

September through April – these are the months where families with high school seniors are conducting their college visits. As students prepare applications and visit schools, one of the biggest conversations around the process is oftentimes the cost of tuition.

It’s a huge expense. The average in-state school tuition runs $10,000 – $12,000 per year, while private schools charge in the range of $40,000 per year. Of course, there are many that go up to $85,000, especially once room and board are factored in. A lot of students and their parents make payments for what they can afford, taking loans out for anything beyond that.

Those loans add up, though, and can be incredibly difficult to dig out of upon graduation. So, it’s worthwhile to investigate some creative approaches to paying for college. These are things that have always been available, but are sometimes overlooked.

  1. Take a gap year. Some parents may view this negatively, thinking it means their kid is going to just do nothing for a year and hang out in the basement. In reality, if it’s used appropriately, a gap year is a great way for students to work and accumulate money to pay for a year or two of college. Yes, they’d live at home, and this would help them really save money.
  2. Attend a two-year community college. Students can get the basic requirements out of the way at a community college, then transfer to a four-year university, obtaining their degree from the university. Community colleges are much less expensive than four-year institutions, running in the range of $5,000 per year, depending on the number of credits taken.
  3. Consider the military. This doesn’t suit everyone, but for those it does, military academies, ROTC programs, NROTC programs, and joining the military are other routes to pay for college. The GI Bill is phenomenal, paying for a four-year in-state college education.
  4. Aggressively approach scholarships. There are countless scholarships available, with many of them paying between $500 to $2,000 per year. By stacking these scholarships, students who apply to 60 or 70 different ones can end up receiving $10,000 – $20,000 each year. A lot of these scholarships are not very well known, but if you do your research and spend the time applying, they can really pay off.
  5. Go through FAFSA. This is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This is what colleges look at to determine need-based aid. If eligible, students can receive tuition assistance along with work study programs.
  6. Look at the PSLF. This is the Public Student Loan Forgiveness Program. If the student goes to work for ten years at specific government agencies and other sub-agencies related to the government, their student loans are completely forgiven. You do have to be careful with this, as there are very specific requirements which cannot be violated, in order to qualify.

Hopefully these are some helpful ideas for tackling the high cost of college. If you’re interested in learning more, we have a 60-minute video course, Climbing Mount College, which is packed with more useful information. Paying for college can be a daunting process, but by understanding the various resources available to you, it’ll help you come up with something that will work for your family. Until next time, enjoy.


If you’d like to read more on this topic, here are a few of our past Coyle Blog posts that you might enjoy:

The 3 key Steps to making a College Funding Strategy

Looking for the Capability, Not the Cash



Gary Klaben serves as a Financial Advisor, and visionary for Coyle Financial Counsel. He has over 30 years of experience and is the author of Changing the Conversation, Wealth of Everything and co-author of The Business BattlefieldWhether advising his clients, mentoring his team, or coaching entrepreneurs, he is always simplifying complexity and motivating others to take the next action that’s right for them.

Learn more about The Coyle Process, approach designed to get your arms around the big picture, so you can make informed financial decisions. Ask Gary about The Coyle Process and schedule a complimentary consultation and start living the Good Life Managed Well™.
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All information is from sources deemed reliable, but no warranty is made to its accuracy or completeness.   This material is being provided for informational or educational purposes only, and does not take into account the investment objectives or financial situation of any client or prospective client.  The information is not intended as investment advice, and is not a recommendation to buy, sell, or invest in any particular investment or market segment.  Those seeking information regarding their particular investment needs should contact a financial professional.  Coyle, our employees, or our clients, may or may not be invested in any individual securities or market segments discussed in this material.  The opinions expressed were current as of the date of posting but are subject to change without notice due to market, political, or economic conditions. All investments involve risk, including loss of principal.  Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.

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