There’s no doubt that college is expensive, but getting a degree doesn’t have to put you in debt. Savings, scholarships, grants, and the right school choice can all help your child finance his or her education without taking on mountains of student loan debt. 

Start Early
It is never too early to start saving for your child’s education. Harness the power of compound interest and let your money work for you. If your child is years away from attending college you can use this College Cost Projector to get an estimate of tuition is likely to cost by the time your child is ready attend.

Every Little Bit Helps
Save as much as you can afford, even if it doesn’t feel like a lot. Every cent makes a difference, and over time your pennies will start to add up. Even if you can’t save the full amount needed for an education, it is still possible to reduce the need for loans. Consider saving through a Qualified Tuition Program, such as a 529 Plan.

Do Your Research
Taking out a loan should be a last resort. Always research other options, such as scholarships and grants, before taking out a loan. In some instances you may even be able to transfer your GI Bill education benefit to your dependents, which can help reduce or eliminate the need for student loans. The Department of Education also offers  advice for finding and applying for scholarships as well as scholarship search tools.

Choose the Right School
Don’t overlook the impact your child’s choice of school can have on their student loan debt. Always compare costs and financial aid offers before selecting a college. Does your home of record state offer any special programs for the children of veterans? Are there state scholarship programs open to all residents that would benefit your student? While your child may have their heart set on attending a specific school, help them understand the long term financial burden that accompanies education loans. Has your child considered community college? Many community colleges have agreements with local four year institutions to guarantee admission upon completion of an Associate Degree program. The cost of attending a community college is a fraction of most four year institutions and living at home means a huge savings on room and board.

To find scholarships and financial aid that your child his eligible for, check the online tools available through Federal Student Aid Office of the U.S. Department of Education, the Department of Education’s Financial Aid Shopping Sheet and Aid for Military Families, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Paying For College.

Still looking for more in-depth information on saving for your child’s education?  Contact your installation’s Personal Financial Management Specialist or Voluntary Education office and set up an appointment to learn more.