Modern families have many different circumstances when it comes to affording college for their children. There are parents who have saved up for their child’s college education for his or her entire life. According to Sallie Mae, about 20% of families are able to pay for college out of pocket. On the other hand, there are an increasing number of families who cannot afford to pay out­-of­-pocket for college. Whatever the circumstances are, there are tools that make affording college easier for families.

1. College Savings Plans: The 529s

For the parents who created a college savings plan ahead of time, 529 plans are useful and can be a great long­term investment. If there is more than one child that is attending college, the money in these accounts may be transferred back and forth depending on the financial need. This ends up balancing the funds between the children, especially if one of them attends a cheaper college and has some extra money left over in his or her college fund account.

2. Take Advantage of Federal Loans

After filling out the FAFSA, students are offered financial aid award packages from their schools based on financial need. These packages may consist of loans, scholarships, and grants. These help families cover the cost of college based on family income. Take advantage of the federal loans offered by the school because they are much lower risk than student loans that are offered by private lending companies.

3. Enroll in a Repayment Plan

Many colleges are offering repayment plans which can supplement the financial assistance that a college student needs. Tuition payment plans break up the cost of attending college on a term ­to­ term basis, factoring in on ­campus housing and tuition. If the student is receiving financial aid, they are still eligible to enroll in payment plans, only paying a monthly fraction of the remaining balance.

Payment plans are useful for both dependent and independent students. They offer the opportunity to spread out the costs of college rather than paying it in full upon enrollment. Families that do not have this resource available to them typically only have between March and

August to scramble for the money to pay for college before the big payment is due. Portland State University is one of the public universities that have adopted this financial aid feature. However, it is important to conduct some research about whether or not a school offers these services as soon as possible.