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Single Fathers: Yes, You Can Afford to Send Your Child to College

shutterstock_200730098The average cost to attend an in-state, public college rose 2.9 percent from the 2013-14 school year to the 2014-15 school year, according to a report released this month by the College Board. Out-of-state tuition jumped 3.3 percent on average, while private college tuition rose 3.7 percent. Single fathers have enough on their plates already when it comes to supporting and raising decent human beings. Financing your children’s educations is just one more challenge that comes with the territory. The sooner you begin planning for college expenses, the better. These tips will help.

FAFSA Now

The U.S. Department of Education processes more than 22 million Free Applications For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) every year. Moreover, many scholarships and grants are rewarded on a first-come, first-serve basis. That means the FAFSA should be filed online at the earliest opportunity.

The Office of Federal Student Aid typically opens the application process on the Jan. 1 prior to the forthcoming academic year. It can filled out entirely online via the FAFSA website beginning that day. There are tax and income questions that you’ll likely be unable to provide exact figures for until you file your return. Simply estimate the amounts when you get to those questions, and submit a correction with the exact data once your taxes are filed.

The FAFSA grants you access to all Title IV financial aid, including Pell grants, work study and student loans. But there are thousands more scholarships available that require some extra research to find. Spend a few hours every week perusing Fast Web, Zinch and Scholarships.com. There may be funds available for your college-bound child based solely on gender, race, academic major, or even by winning an essay-writing contest.

401(k) Parent Match

Many Gen X parents and boomer grandparents believe the millennial generation is spoiled, lazy and entitled. While several economic factors played a part, the unemployment rate for those ages 18-34 peaked at 14 percent in 2010, compared to 8 percent for Gen X. Does Gen Y simply not want to work? Maybe. Whatever the reason, the phenomenon presents a unique opportunity for single dads to incentivize work for their soon-to-be college students.

Start a savings account no later than their sophomore years in high school. Match every deposit they make in the account dollar for dollar. The caveat is that these funds cannot be accessed until their first college semester has been completed. Consider continuing the “parent match” for as long as they leave the funds untouched or until they graduate college, whichever comes first.

This type of arrangement not only provides a lesson in saving, but it also gives the kids a way to help finance their own futures. They’ll get into the habit of working and develop time-management skills along the way.

Get Creative

When the tuition deadline is fast approaching and the bill has yet to be covered, you may need to stir the creative juices.

Consider a crowdfunding campaign to raise money at the last minute. Successful Indiegogo and Kickstarter crowdfunding projects start with a good story told on an introduction videos. Single fathers raising children alone will instantly garner sympathy and admiration, particularly from single mothers. Kickstarter’s own statistics reveal that campaigns lacking introduction videos are 66 percent less likely to be fully funded. Use your own social networks to get the first few contributions in from friends and family and get the ball rolling from there.

Another option is peer-to-peer loan platforms. Lending Club, for instance, has its own unique credit requirements, but still cuts out the hassle of dealing with a bank. If you currently receive periodic payments from a structured settlement or annuity, consider selling your future payments for a lump of cash to help take care of tuition and fees. It’s also not a bad idea to negotiate with competing universities; it’s not out of the question for a school to lower tuition costs to match the financial aid package of a competitor, if they really want your kid to attend.

The college journey is something families experience together. Tuition and fee rates will not stop ascending anytime soon. Your persistence and steadfast commitment cannot waiver either.

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