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Preparing Financially for College

A college education is becoming increasingly expensive. Making a plan on how you will pay for it will greatly reduce stress for both parents and the future student. Here are some steps you may want to use as you prepare for that next step in life.

Nashville, Ark. – School has just started and while you are trying to adjust to the new school year, you may not have started thinking about college. However, now is the time to be thinking about all the requirements for college enrollment, especially for those planning to head off to college next school year. In fact, most colleges are now requiring prospective freshmen students to be enrolled by November. For those who are juniors or younger, you have a little time left.  However, time is running out. Even for parents who have sent their first child to Kindergarten, it’s not too early to think about the future!

            A college education is becoming increasingly expensive. Making a plan on how you will pay for it will greatly reduce stress for both parents and the future student. Here are some steps you may want to use as you prepare for that next step in life.

  • Choose the school carefully. Schools vary in cost. Public schools are typically less

expensive than private schools. Out-of-state schools cost more than in-state schools. Look at schools that will meet your needs academically. Make sure they offer what you want to get your degree in. Then weigh the pros and cons of each school you are interested in to help you narrow your choices.

  • Calculate the costs. Once you have decided which school to attend, you will need to

estimate all the costs associated. That includes tuition, fees, housing, meals, organizations, etc. Then set up a budget to help you save and pay for college. Keep in mind that if you take some dual credit classes during high school, you may be able to accelerate the time needed to earn your degree. Watch out! Be sure to keep up with your hours earned and not reach the number needed to be considered a sophomore when you start college. Going into college with too many hours may jeopardize freshmen scholarships.

  • Decide who will pay. Who will pay for your college education? Will it be you, your

your parents or another relative? It may be a combination. Estimate how much you will be receiving from all your funding sources.

  • Create a budget. Work with your parents or child to make a budget for paying for school

costs. This should include school fees (tuition, room and board, books, etc.) plus monthly/weekly expenses (eating out, school supplies, etc.). Also be sure to include any part-time work earnings you may have.

  • Seek out scholarships. Scholarships have become super competitive! In Arkansas, we

have the Arkansas Challenge Scholarship available, but don’t rely on it to pay for everything. It only funds a small portion of the total costs. Check with the financial aid office at your school of choice. Also check out departmental scholarships. Some scholarships are based on merit; others are based on financial need. Look at other sources too. There are literally thousands of scholarships available online. It takes time to research them, but it is worth it. Pay special attention to deadlines and requirements of each.

  • Check financial aid availability.  Completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal

Aid) as soon as possible increases your chance of being awarded financial aid. It becomes available January 1 each year and closes June 30.

  • Research grants. A federal aid grant is financial aid that you do not need to pay back.

They are usually based on financial need.  Check with the university or college of your choice financial aid department to see what is available.

  • Apply for student loans. If you have exhausted all other options, you might

consider applying for student loans. Shop around for the best interest rates. There are usually two options, federal and private. Federal loans may be based on financial need. You will be required to have the FAFSA completed in order to apply for student loans. Student loans do not cover the entire amount you will need.

  • Consider part-time work. There are some advantages to working part-time while

attending college. Not only will the student be making some extra money, they will also be gaining professional experience, something future employers look for. Most college towns will hire students and work around their schedule.

  • Start saving early! If your child or grandchild is just entering Kindergarten, start saving

college now! Check out the Arkansas 529 Plan which is an investment plan that allows you to contribute money to an account to save for college expenses. This is a great way to save, but you must start early. The plan allows you to contribute as much or as little as you want each month and by the time your child enters college, they will have built a nice nest egg. There are several options available to help you save and invest. Check them out. They even have a coloring contest where one lucky Kindergarten winner from each county in Arkansas will win the money needed to open the account!

            If you want to learn more about budgeting or other financial questions, feel free to contact me at the Howard County Extension Service at 870-845-7517 or visit our office located on the second floor of the courthouse.

            Information for this article was adapted from Practical Money Skills for Life.

Recipe of the Week

            The Howard County Fair is next week! Consider entering items in the Home Arts building on Tuesday, September 6 from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Baked goods can be entered that day or on Wednesday morning before 9:00 a.m. For a copy of the fair tabloid, stop by the Extension office to pick one up. Here is recipe that is sure to gain you a prize!

Blue Ribbon Sugar Cookies

2 ½ cups flour

½ teaspoon soda

¾ teaspoon salt

½ cup butter or margarine

½ cup shortening

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

2 tablespoons milk

            All ingredients should be at room temperature. Sift together the flour, soda, and salt. Cream together butter or margarine, shortening, sugar, and vanilla. Add egg; cream until the mixture is fluffy. Stir in dry ingredients until mixture is smooth; blend in 2 tablespoons milk. Make round balls the size of cookies desired; flatten with the bottom of a glass which has been dipped in sugar. Bake in a 400 degree oven about 12 minutes. Cool.

            Makes 5 ½ dozen 2-inch cookies

By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517


The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.