For Police families, helping future generations with college is often an important life goal. The desire to assist our children with jump-starting their futures typically implies economically supporting some form of higher education. It might also be an expensive financial proposition; a commitment that may represent a significant financial hurdle for the household.
Can we afford it? How will we afford it? Where do we get started?
In our experience, most law enforcement families earn just enough to find themselves phased out of traditional ‘need-based’ financial aid programs, so you’ve got to think a bit more creatively. Here’s a brainstorm of ideas you may consider or wish to further explore:
- Opening the books. Communicate and set clear expectations of what you can and cannot realistically contribute towards your student’s education - - is this a teaching moment?
- Think creatively. Are there programs like ROTC which could help soften the cost? Or being a Resident Assistant (RA) after freshman year to save costs with on-campus housing?
- Consider starting a 529 College Savings Plan (some states may also provide income-tax savings), even if the time period is very short and the investment amount small.
- Spreadsheet out school options, including any financial awards, the net costs, and any pros/cons; don’t be afraid to include community college, in-state, or commuter options - - even if they merely serve as reference points. After all, they technically are “options”.
- Explore student summer jobs or paid internships, including part-time work at college.
- Look into scholarships and start applying. Employer, academic, community, union, town, occupational, etc… Check with your school guidance counselor and also search the web.
- Research student loan programs, paying particular attention to interest costs - - but do familiarize yourself with terminology, such as what “deferment” really means.
- Understand the cost/benefit that earning potential a particular degree can provide.
- As a parent, come to an understanding of what co-signing means - including how this could impact future credit/financing or even employment in the event of default.
- If all else fails, think big picture and a little outside the box. What other assets do you have? (home equity? Sell body parts? – ha. just checking if you’re paying attention)…and are there other family members who may be able or willing to contribute? Can we sell an extra vehicle or collectibles to raise capital and cut budget expenses?
Put all facts down on paper. Stay organized. Communicate clearly with your student and know that progress and good decision-making comes from first facing the truth about where you stand.