How to Pay For College in the Time of the Financial Crisis

Even if you’ve made it through the mortgage foreclosure storm, the skies aren’t sunny and clear for your financial future quite yet. You have kids who need to get an education, and paying for college is no easy task. Many adults are retirement financial planners, and before they know it their kids are almost of university age and there is not as much money in that college savings plan as they’d hoped.

It’s not too late, yet! Though the cost of college is growing (average for tuition, room and board in 2009 was $18,659), there are still many steps you can take to save for your children’s future.

Start saving today tax-free with a 529 Savings Plan. The money saved in a 529 needs to go to education and the related expenses, but it can be used for books, rent, food, even a new computer for students. There are no income limits on the funds, but if your child is above 17 you should play the market conservatively by putting no more than 15% of the holdings into stocks. If you have questions about the 529 plan, speak with a financial adviser.

Ultimately, most universities know that a majority of Americans can’t pay for college without aid. But make sure your family is not overlooked when university aid is given out by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This will put you in the large pool of families eligible for grants and loans.

Look for local, state, organizational and community scholarships. Millions of groups offer small scholarships to qualified individuals. $500 may not seem big enough to make a difference, but it’s enough to buy books, and if you get more than one scholarship, even better. Scholarships aren’t just for the poor and underprivileged- anyone can get them!

And finally: tax credits. The Hope Scholarship Tax Credit gives families $2,500 towards tuition, fees, books and supplies for school (for those eligible).

How to Search for Online College Degree Programs

If you are entering a traditional college with live classes, it’s often pretty easy to find a degree that you are looking for, including for specialized degrees. People that are majoring in popular areas like liberal arts, education, business, and such can often obtain degrees in these areas in most schools. But if you are looking for online college degree programs, what can you expect? The good news is that more and more colleges are offering online degree in these traditional areas, but you may have to search pretty hard to find online college degree programs for specialized areas.

As you begin searching for the online college degree programs that are right for your future career plans, make sure that the schools you are considering are fully accredited. There are some scam “diploma mills” out there that won’t give you the college education and respectable diploma that you are searching for.

For students searching for specialized degrees, it can be very difficult to find a specialized degree online and this includes when you look at schools internationally, too. Often, you may find that you need to get an online degree in a related field and then take specialty courses after graduation. You can choose to minor in your specialty, or take courses in your specialty from professional associations, too.

The fact is that there are hundreds of colleges and universities nationally and internationally alike that offer online degree options that you can pursue. If you are following a popular career path, you may not have any trouble finding an online degree plan for you, but if you are interested in pursuing a specialized degree, you may need to be creative in your education plans. Ultimately, though, you can almost definitely find the education and degree plan you want online.