4 Ways to Cut College Costs

By Lynn O’Shaughnessy
Posted 2011

The best way to save money on college is to pick schools that will provide your child with the most generous financial aid packages. There are, however, other ways to shrink costs. Here are four of my favorites:

1. Keep the car at home. You can save a lot of money if your child doesn’t bring a car to campus. The gas bill disappears and so does the maintenance costs.

What fewer parents realize is that you can also save big on the student’s car insurance. If your child heads off to college without a car ask your insurer if it will eliminate your child’s portion of the insurance premium while he or she is gone. I’ve done this with my daughter Caitlin, who is a college senior. Even better, when Caitlin is home from school, our insurer allows her four 30-day waivers a year, so we’ve saved even more.

2. Become a residential adviser. This is a wonderful way to eliminate room and board costs, which at some state schools exceeds the price of the tuition. Residential advisers live in dorms and are responsible for making sure students on their floors are behaving themselves. They can also be a sounding board for students who are experiencing troubles. When my daughter was an RA, she quickly concluded that this was one of best jobs on campus.

If you’re interested in an RA position, find out when your school is accepting applications. Typically students who will be at least sophomores in the next school year are eligible.

3. Save on healthcare. Health insurance costs can kill a household budget, which is why parents should explore what their best healthcare options are for their college students. According to eHealthInsurance, parents’ health plans won’t always be the best and most economical coverage when a child is attending college.

So what’s the problem? Many insurers only provide the highest level of care when a student uses a family’s network of preferred doctors and hospitals.

School-sponsored plans can sometimes be the best option, but some insurers limit coverage to as little as $50,000 per condition. In some situations, the best option will be an individual policy for the student if he or she has no pre-existing medical conditions.

If you haven’t already heard, the new federal health care overhaul does allow adult children to stay on parents’ health insurance policies until age 26.

4. Talk cheap. There’s no reason why you need to rack up phone bills to keep in touch with your college student. Google Voice provides the newest free domestic phone service and all you need is a Gmail account to take advantage of it. If your child is studying abroad, overseas calls using Google Voice are usually just 2 cents a minute to landlines.

Another older alternative is Skype, which I used regularly when my daughter was studying at the University of Barcelona for her junior year. The reception was as clear as a domestic call and while I was chatting with her on my computer, I also got to enjoy seeing her on my computer screen.

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