Saving for your children's college education may seem impossible in today's economy but that does not mean you have to downgrade your children's dreams and aspirations. Work hard at researching all the types of free schooling available to them and the federal grants and loans available. The federal government will forgive educational loans in exchange for employment in under-served or rural communities. They also forgive loans if the degree is obtained in a field that has seen a decline of graduates—one such field is general practitioner.
While the biggest needs are found in the medical field and dentistry, education is another field worth looking into for loan forgiveness and in some cases, free tuition towards an advanced degree.
Stanford University has millions of dollars in funding to provide free tuition to families who earn less than $100,000 a year. Families making under $60,000 a year are not expected to contribute a dime toward their children's education and those making above $100,000 a year can expect financial assistance as well.
While Stanford is near and dear to my heart, it is not the only institution with such a program. Many Ivy League schools across the country have reserved funding to do the same in order to increase diversity in their schools and provide an education to individuals whose parents are not on the list of "the rich and famous."
The University of Nebraska, with nationally renowned programs in nursing among others, is well worth investigating. New York community colleges and universities and southern universities should not be overlooked because many of these are actively recruiting students from around the country with generous tuition packages that cover living arrangements.
The key to attaining a free education requires some basic steps with a vigilant eye on deadlines:
- Investigate all sources of financial aid at state and federal level.
- Investigate the institution's resident fees and free tuition programs.
- Fill out and mail applications well ahead of deadlines in case something else is required.
- Agree with your student(s) on a plan to save money: Living at home, saving checks from summer jobs, etc.
- Apply early and apply often for all available scholarships.
- Call the schools, speak with financial aid officers or meet with them in person to find out what else is available and what are the requirements.
A note on scholarships: Most are filled with restrictions, such as age, gender and field of study, but your student should apply to as many as she can find and do so early in the process. Deadlines must be met or the application will be denied even if she qualifies for the scholarship. Another thing to keep in mind is to never pay a website for information on scholarships since the information is available for free at libraries, financial aid offices and online at government and colleges and universities websites.