College Tuition Tips

Similar to most other businesses, colleges have been hit hard by the recent economic recession. The recession has forced college administrators to layoff thousands of professors, cut programs and most notably increase tuition to record numbers.

      College enrollment figures are currently lower than what most colleges would like, which is one of the reasons why tuition figures are sharply rising. However, colleges are constantly competing with each other to be the most affordable. So, many colleges are implementing payment programs that can help mitigate the rising costs of college tuition, according to an article in The US News & World Report.

      The US News & World Report listed several options that should help most students and their parents pay for college.

Guaranteed tuition rates: Some colleges are locking in tuition rates for incoming freshmen, guaranteeing them that their tuition will not rise during their four years of college. However, these colleges will rise the price of room, board, meal plans and textbooks to compensate. This program only applies to a student’s first four years in college, and fifth year students are likely to see tuition increases.  

Paying a premium to lock in tuition for four years: With this program, students will pay a premium, set price that will not change for each of their four years of college. This premium price is usually higher than the traditional tuition rate. Similar to tuition locks, this guarantees that students’ tuition rates will not rise for four years. Other costs are likely to rise.

Prepaying at the freshman rate: This program is perfect for families who can afford to pay their entire, four-year tuition amount before college starts. Vanderbilt University, Middlebury College and dozens of other schools permit students and their parents to pay the freshman year rate – multiplied by four – up front. This plan avoids any tuition increases, and it is likely to be the most cost-effective way for students to tackle the cost of tuition.

Prepaid college savings plan: These are available to families who will be paying tuition bills in one year. There are more than a dozen prepaid college savings plans that allow families to buy tuition credits. Some of the prepaid college savings plans – “Alaska’s” and the “Independent 529” that works with about 270 private colleges – lock in the current tuition prices when families first invest in them. The rest of the prepaid college savings plans charge a premium of 4 percent to over 20 percent. These plans can be insecure. The premium rates are continuing to rise because of the dramatic tuition hikes. Some of these prepaid savings plans are unable to keep their promises with investors. Other prepaid savings plans force investors to wait at least three years until they can cash out.

      Students and their parents need to pay very close attention to all the numbers of college costs. Administrators at universities have been known to doctor the numbers to make their college seem much more affordable than it actually is. Some colleges will lure students in with any one of these aforementioned programs, and they will actually end up paying more in the long run. However, students and their parents can save thousands of dollars with these programs, but they need to closely analyze all the numbers.