In Maryland, Virginia and across the country, the cost of going to college continues to increase at a faster rate than inflation and medical costs. If you have a child approaching college age today, the average cost of a year at school is right around $25,000 and double that figure if you’re looking at a private school. If your youngsters aren’t headed off to school for a few more years, you can expect those prices to go up.

Here are some things to consider as you determine how to pay for college:

Start saving now.

If you’re planning on making any sort of contribution to a college fund for a child or loved one, create a college savings plan long before it is time for college. From Coverdell education savings accounts to 529 plans, there are several ways to start saving. The time to do it is now.

There are many ways to pay tuition.

If you’re in a position to write a check for tuition each semester, congratulations on what is really a rare accomplishment. For everyone else, you have options. Student loans generally come with low interest rates and payments are often deferred until after graduation. Depending on your income level, you may qualify for government financial aid. Students who excel academically, artistically or athletically may qualify for scholarships, and there are many grant, loan and scholarship programs that can help students in even more ways.

Don’t overpay for a degree.

Many students make the mistake of going to an expensive school to get a degree that can be earned elsewhere for much less money. Consider the value of the degree that’s being worked toward. Sometimes the school’s resources, connections and reputation are worth the extra cost, but sometimes they aren’t.

Let the student share the load.

Few things can motivate a student to succeed more than having some skin in the game. Many schools even offer flexible jobs to students who want or need to work on campus. Between tuition, books, room and board, spending money and the other expenses that come with school, students can get part- or full-time work and find a way to contribute.

Is a four-year college experience the right solution?

While many view a traditional university to be the default destination for high school grads, it might not be the best choice. Depending on the career field a person chooses, the right solution may be a technical school or on-the-job training. It’s also a good idea to go into school with a plan in place. If there’s no plan, there’s no shame in waiting to start school until a path has been decided on. And while college is a great place to figure out an ideal career, there are other ways to make those decisions that don’t incur those hefty expenses.

If you’d like to explore college savings options, or if you’d just like to talk about how to create a financial plan for your family’s educational future, Community Bank Wealth Advisors are ready to exceed expectations.

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