Finding a Solution to the High Cost of College
By Joe Messinger, CFP®
December 10, 2021
Families with college-bound students are always on the look-out for a magical solution to the high cost of college. Our plan at Capstone includes careful planning combining savings, college research, tax strategies, scholarships, cash flow, and smart borrowing.
Our “magical” solution is careful planning. We’ve developed our College Money Report™ to help families compare colleges in the most complete way possible. The College Money Report™ will compare colleges across the board when it comes to scholarships, expected family contribution, grants, cost of room and board, and more. It’s the most complete comparison of colleges program out there and will help families know exactly how much a college will cost, and what they can expect to pay out of pocket. With the ever-increasing cost of college, it’s imperative that families take a close look at exactly what they can afford.
However, some families may find that extra financial assistance to make their college dreams a reality is needed. Pursuing an additional program can work for them like studying in a foreign country or using employer-sponsored programs. These ideas may be ones you’ve heard of, but haven’t looked into!
Can my student go to a university in Germany for free?
The short answer? Yes.!
Many countries in Europe consider a free education to be a right, not a privilege, and their tuition is free.
Most higher education in other countries will incur fees, although these are a fraction of the costs in the US. In addition, you must consider the standard of living in other countries. While tuition in Norway is free, living expenses are high.
Germany, France, and Iceland are among the list of countries that offer free tuition to US students. Not every country will offer classes in English (or they may charge higher fees for English courses) so keep that in mind. Germany is one with a high proportion of English programs.
Also, pay attention to resident permit requirements for students spending more than a certain number of months in a foreign country. These vary by country.
Can a student receive federal financial aid for a college in another country?
Yes and no. The federal government includes student loans in their definition of “financial aid” so yes, you can receive federal student loans to help pay for an education in a foreign country. However, students cannot receive federal grants to use towards a degree at an international university.
To obtain federal student loans, a family must complete the FAFSA just like if the student was attending a US college. The Department of Education keeps a list of eligible foreign institutions: International Schools for Federal Student Loan Programs.
Remember, programs and requirements are always in flux. Not every college in a foreign country will offer free tuition. The prerequisites to obtain admission must be met. The practices of the past may change in years to come. Do your research. For the right student, the opportunity may be just the thing.
A second topic to touch base on are employer-sponsored tuition programs.
Companies like McDonald’s and Starbucks have developed programs to help their employees pay for college. Tuition assistance programs are a great way to attract and retain employees as well as broaden their education.
McDonald’s Archways to Opportunity™ program has awarded over $14 million in high school and college tuition assistance including scholarships to employees. The awards are small and based on the number of hours worked each week, but every little bit helps.
Starbucks offers a College Achievement Plan which provides a 100% of the cost of tuition for online course through Arizona State University. Starbucks also has a program to help students qualify for admission by taking up to 10 freshmen-level courses to earn admission to ASU.
These examples are just a snippet to get you thinking. Unfortunately, there is no secret solution to beat the high cost of college. However, depending on the student, families can explore some unusual opportunities available to maximize both their education and their budget.
Updated: December 2021
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