Financial Freedom for the Next Generation – Part 2

When I talk to teens about their college plans, I get a range of responses. Most are under the assumption that there is no way to pay for college without student loans. They have just accepted that idea. A very small number have saved enough to pay as they go. Others are considering a community college option. Some are determined to go to private colleges, no matter the cost, since they have “met so many cool people there.” Most are concerned about the cost and the future implications on their life, career and family.

The bottom line is this; you need to have a plan to pay for college, before you get there. It is important to start thinking about this and making plans early. Parents, you are the most influential part of this process. Although it doesn’t always seem like it, your teen will listen to your advice if you have set a good example. Here are some tips for you to keep in mind and for you to pass along:

  • There is more than one way to pay for college. – This is very important to remember. High School Guidance Counselors and College Admissions Advisors are going to comfort your student with the fact that “most people borrow money to attend college”. After all, they say, a college education is an investment in your future.  The investment part can be true, but it is not a guarantee, so having a debt-free plan is a very smart thing. I just recently finished paying for my own college education. If I were to go back and do it all again, I would have a plan that did not include taking on debt. It aggravates me that guidance is not being given to our students on the subject of a debt-free education.  This is a good place for bold direction, Mom and Dad, and it will need to come from you!
  • Work – Encourage (or demand) that your teenager get a job in high school. Even though this can be more difficult today with teen unemployment at 23.8%, jobs can be found and your student needs to be saving for college. If work is hard to find they may want to start their own business. It is important to for teens to identify if being a business owner is a path they should take. Some tools to help with this process can be found on the resource page at you have decided on a school, determine how much your annual commitment is going to be with tuition, meal plan, room and board, books, and your other obligations. You then need to create a budget and figure out how many hours each month, week and day that you will need to work to stay ahead. Think of all the influential people you know that worked their way through college. Let them be an inspiration to you. It still is being done today, and you can do it too. See below for a great resource on attending college without debt.
  • A High GPA Can Save Thousands – When my daughter applied to colleges, she was grateful that she had a decent Grade Point Average, and it was rewarding to see how much money it took off her college bill. A high GPA is not a guarantee of success in life and business, but it can definitely help save money when it comes to tuition. It can also make scholarships more accessible. This is a very proactive step that any college bound student can do, and it will have a significant impact.
  • Fill Out the FAFSA – Make sure you take care of the FAFSA form. This is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid located at It will let you know what your family qualifies for in terms of federal assistance with college. Unfortunately it will also steer you toward acquiring student loans, and I recommend that you find another way. You at least need to know what is available for your family in the form of grants, and this is how you find out.
  • Pursue Every Available Scholarship – There are millions of dollars in scholarship money that are available each year. Some are devoted to certain courses of study, so start searching in your area of interest. Remember that most scholarships have a very early application deadline. For example, if you are entering college in the Fall of 2013, then you should be looking for scholarships at the beginning of the 2012 school year.  Many applications have a deadline as early as October of the previous year. It pays to be proactive!
  • In-State Tuition – It is very important for you to consider attending a state college in your home state, or in a neighboring state that will offer “in-state” rates to you.  This can mean literally $10,000 a year in savings or more. States keep their tuition low for residents by charging non-residents hefty out-of-state prices. This alone can bring college within your grasp if money is a major obstacle.
  • Community College – An option that is looked upon negatively by many, but should be considered is attending community college for the first two years to get general education credits at a highly affordable price. I recently spoke with a young man that has two years of college under his belt, has been working full time and only paying about $4500 a year to attend a local community college.  He is paying cash for his education, living at home and has been saving money to attend a Four-Year college this fall. It rarely matters to an employer where you went to college. If it does, the only area of concern is the school that gave you the degree.  Where you earned your general education credits is not going to matter. This can save you several thousand dollars a year.
  • College Credit in High School – It goes by various names, but there are many options now for your student to take college courses in High School. A long time ago, I received college credit for classes that I took in High School. Today there are programs that allow you to take as few as one course, all the way up to having a complete semester schedule.  Some students have had enough of High School and are ready to move on with their education. In some cases these students can actually attend college and not only complete their high school requirements and get their diploma, they get free college education. I know one such young lady that did this last year and it has saved her a ton of money. Check out what you have available in your area.
  • Consider Military Options – My oldest son expressed interest in the military as a way to pay for college and serve our country. It is not difficult to get information about military options. You just need to ask or start searching online. There are many attractive options. I encourage you to start looking early for yourself or your student. The process can be started in some branches as early as 11th grade. Start writing things down and keep track of your questions because there are lots of details. Also, investigate more than one branch of the military, national guard or reserves.  There are some programs that may fit your situation better than others. Nearly all of them have some form of GI Bill to pay for or college expenses, so the research is well worth your time. If you would be honored and proud to serve your country in this way, I recommend taking advantage of this option.

What are You Prepared to Do? This is an important question. The process is not necessarily easy, but the choice should not be difficult. Are you determined?  It takes planning and work to get through school without debt, but it also takes planning and work to pay off student loans, while putting your life on hold. The average college graduate has $23,000 in student load debt. This can be a scary mountain to climb after graduation. My encouragement is to work extra hard now when you have more energy than you will ever have again. This is good place to get started in developing your plan. There are many more things to consider.  If you have a student in college or high school, you should find a copy of “Debt Free U” by Zac Bissonette. He covers these ideas and others and would be a big help in this process.Take the time to research and figure out your plan. Are you willing to take the road less traveled and be financially free the day you graduate, or are you going to take the path everyone else is on? Again the choice is yours to make!


About The Author

Duane Rockensock

Duane (Rocky) Rockensock is a husband, a dad, and the National Reconditioning Manager for AmeriGas Propane. Since he was a teenager, Duane has loved hearing the stories of how people have started creative businesses or found ways to use their talents to accomplish amazing things. For that reason he started this blog to encourage teens and adults to find their purpose and to provide the tools and resources to make that happen!