One of the most common questions we get in regard to our large family is “how are you going to pay for college for all those kids?” Our answer was simple: We aren’t. We never considered paying for our kids’ college our responsibility and we always figured we would cross that bridge when we came to it. Well, my friends, we are now at that bridge. Judah is in his first year at Central Washington University and we are just now being faced with the reality of how expensive a university education is. I’m going share with you our own story on how to pay for college with a large family.
1. Community College. We all know community college is vastly cheaper than big universities. Here in Washington we have an amazing program called Running Start. High school students in grades 11 and 12 are able to take college classes and earn college credit. The best part? Homeschool students are able complete high school and their Associate of Arts degree simultaneously. Adalia and Judah graduated earning both a high school diploma and Associate of Arts degrees (at 18 and 17). Tilly will graduate at 17 next month with both. This alone has saved us thousands of dollars. Judah in his first year at Central is actually in his third year of college.
2. Grants and Scholarships.
Grades in high school matter! Volunteer work matters. Community involvement matters. Make sure you track these activities for their scholarship and college applications. My kids all qualified for College Bound scholarships when the were in 7th and 8th grade. This is through our state and is income dependent. While we qualified as low-income at the time, last year when Judah was filling out his financial aid, Chuck made too much money to qualify so we got nothing (but we have still qualified our younger kids, we don’t know what the future holds). Judah ended up with $4000 in scholarships this year, and will have scholarships next year as well. Some of those are good for four years and he is still applying for new ones.
3. Financial Aid
When we filled out the Financial Aid forms for Judah, we found that he only qualified for loans for himself and we qualified for parent loans. We were disappointed to see that Judah didn’t get any actual money toward college. This meant we had to be even more resourceful when it came to financing his education. But, for many large families, Financial Aid can make a huge difference. One of my friends (with 15 kids!) has two in university this year, and Financial Aid is covering the balance of their tuition!
4. Work Study
Judah is currently working in the office of the psychology program at Central. He loves this because they are very flexible and guarantee work hours that are compatible with his classes. He also does not need to leave the campus, which is great since he doesn’t have a car. The money he makes at this job he is able to use for books and supplies; keeping his loans down.
5. Student Loans
Judah was really hoping to avoid these entirely, but there was no way to do this and still allow him to attend university this year. We encouraged him to go head and take the loan, but to work as much as he could and not let those loans pile up! College Avenue Student Loans has launched a brand-new parent loan. With College Ave parents save an average of $1000 over other loans. Not only that, parents have the option to begin paying back this loan right away, or limit the monthly payments and choose repayment terms from 5-12 years. Another option is to deposit $2,500 into the parents’ bank account to pay for books, dorm rooms, etc. You can use this simple College Ave qualification tool to see if you qualify.
We chose not to take out a loan to cover our portion, but have been making payments each quarter, while Judah contributes as much as he can.
6. Summer work
Judah is already looking into training and job opportunities. He is hoping to get a job in the construction field so he can make as much money as possible this summer and take out fewer loans next year. Chuck and I have been so proud of him. Not only does he have a work/study job, but he worked at his old job as parking monitor over Christmas and over spring break.
Judah knows the value of hard work and it doing his best to come out of university owing as little money as possible. Since he has already completed his first two years, he only has just over one more to. At that point he will be too young to be in law enforcement (he will only be 20 and he needs to be 21) so he will have another year to work and hopefully pay off any remaining loans.
Do you have a college savings plan for your kids? How did you pay for college?
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.