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Great Ways For Families to Fund College: Supreme Court on Student Loans

Great Ways For Families to Fund College: Supreme Court on Student Loans
The cost of a college or university education is shown by a mortarboard cap on a hundred dollar bill. (Photo: iStock Photo)

While the Supreme Court is debating student loans, some families are going to extraordinary lengths to ensure that their children can attend and fund college. Here are great ways these families went through to fund college:

Dylan, Joyelle Tilton’s youngest son, wanted to attend either the University of Massachusetts at Amherst or the University of Massachusetts at Boston.

But if they lived outside of Massachusetts, their tuition would be about $36,000, more than twice as much as in Massachusetts.

Supreme Court on Student Loans: Great Ways For Families to Fund College

Both Dylan and Colby have maintained jobs and received scholarship money in order to pay for college. In order to better assist Dylan in obtaining in-state education, both sets of parents have moved. (Photo: Tilton Family)

So, in August 2021, just before Dylan started his junior year of high school, they packed up their things, said goodbye to their relatives in Nevada, and moved to Massachusetts.

“My husband was a virtual worker so that we can live anywhere, so we sold our house in Las Vegas,” says 47-year-old Tilton.

Dylan, Joyelle Tilton’s youngest son, wanted to go to either the University of Massachusetts at Amherst or University of Massachusetts at Boston.

But if they lived outside of Massachusetts, their tuition would be about $36,000, which is more than twice as much as if they lived in Massachusetts.

So, in August 2021, just before Dylan started his junior year of high school, they packed up their things, said goodbye to their relatives in Nevada, and moved to Massachusetts.

“My husband was a virtual worker, so we can live anywhere, so we sold our house in Las Vegas,” says 47-year-old Tilton.


How much does attending to college cost?

With some states, programs, and schools setting deadlines for financial aid applications in early March and the U.S. Supreme Court hearing arguments on Tuesday about President Joe Biden’s plan to reduce student loan debt, many Americans are thinking a lot about how expensive it is to fund college.


Families are finding ways to fund college costs that keep going up, like selling the house, taking money out of retirement funds, and renting out a spare room. And that doesn’t include the choices that students make. For example, if they want to go to college, they might join the National Guard, go to community college, or apply to cheaper universities overseas to save money on tuition.

Anthony Carnevale, who runs the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, says that as to fund college costs rise, fewer people will go to college and fewer people will finish.

The average cost of an undergraduate degree in the U.S., including room and board and fees, went from $9,307 in 1980 to $25,004 in 2019. This is according to an analysis of U.S. Department of Education data by the Georgetown University Center. Only tuition went up from an average of $17,045 to $24,623 between the 2008/09 and 2018/19 school years.


As the Supreme Court decides whether or not Biden’s plan to wipe out some student debt can go forward, people in the U.S. are thinking about how to keep students and families from getting so much debt in the first place.

Student debt solutions: Free of fund college or federal student loans to pay off student debt? These ideas could help solve the problem of student debt.

Biden says he will forgive some student loans: In a settlement, the Biden administration wants to get rid of $6 billion in student debt for 200,000 people.

Tilton said, “I don’t think any of us are ready for how much does to fund college costs, and I don’t know what the answer is.” “I’m not sure how the government can fix it.”


How do people go to college if they don’t take out loans?


Tilton and her husband Chad, who is 50, always made it clear to their three kids that they would have to help fund college.

She says, “Our kids knew they needed to get scholarships because college was much more expensive than when my husband and I went.”


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Is college necessary?

Middle class, minus debt: There are low-cost alternatives to college like apprenticeships and certificates.

Colby, who is 19, wanted to get an ROTC scholarship to help fund college. Brie, who is 25, decided not to go to college. When that didn’t work out, he joined the Massachusetts National Guard, which will pay to fund college and his expenses at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

After a year of basic training, he is now a freshman. He will have a place to live and food to eat thanks to scholarships. He has also put away $17,000 from working at Target.

Dylan, the couple’s youngest son, is 17 years old and also works at Target. He wants to save the same amount as his parents. But since he failed a hearing test, he couldn’t join the National Guard.

So, Dylan’s family moved to Wareham, Massachusetts, to make it their permanent home, even though Dylan is a senior in high school this year.

Tilton was sure Dylan would get into the state university and that moving with the family was a good decision. “She says, “He gets straight A’s in school, works, and did great on the SATs.”

When Tilton and her husband filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, the portal used to figure out federal, and often state and individual school financial aid, they were told they should be able to pay $30,000 a year toward their son’s college costs.

“She says, “We can’t.” “My husband doesn’t even make that much a year.

So the family moved into an Airbnb rental for a long time. Dylan applied for several scholarships, and Tilton and her husband will stay in Massachusetts even after Dylan becomes a legal resident of the state if he needs to save money by living at home and commuting to school.

“She says, “Even though we’re moving, he’ll probably still need to get some student loans to pay for books and other fees.”

Leaving the country to save money for school

Tiffany Fite’s children moved in a different way. They went to school in Europe, where college can be less expensive.

In 2018, when glossy brochures from U.S. colleges started arriving, she and her husband, Benjamin, started seriously looking at their options.

Supreme Court on Student Loans: Great Ways For Families to Fund College

The son of the Fite family chose to go to college in Europe, where college is often less expensive than in the U.S., so they won’t have to take on a lot of debt. (Photo: Tiffany Fite

Fite, a consultant, and her lawyer husband wanted their sons, Aidan, 19, and Ethan, 20, to be able to enjoy high school without constantly worrying about getting into certain schools.

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Fite says that she and her husband save so hard that they were able to stop working for two years and travel around the country in an RV with their two sons.

“If there was one thing we wanted our boys to learn about money from us, it was to always live within their means,” says Fite.

The family set up 529 savings accounts, but they knew that they wouldn’t be enough to pay the likely $100,000 each son would need to get a bachelor’s degree.

Fite says, “We wouldn’t co-sign for loans, and we wouldn’t use our retirement or future to pay for their college.”

They thought about how much it would cost for their sons to live at home and go to Boise State, which is right next to their Idaho home. They made community college too expensive. “Then we found out that we could go overseas,” she says.

After high school, the boys took a year off, in part to work and save money.

Aidan started a three-year Bachelor of Arts program in archaeology at the University of Pecs in Hungary in August. Each year, Aidan pays $5,000 for tuition. Ethan is in his second year at Anglo American University in Prague, which costs $8,500 per year to attend.

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Their parents will pay $45,000 to $50,000 for each son’s total to fund college tuition, and they also plan to match the $5,000 each son earns from working.

Fite says, “It took us a lot of work to look at the other options, but it was worth it.”

How can I pay for college in the best way?

Apprenticeships and certifications are becoming more popular as more people see how expensive to fund college is and ask, “Why bother?”

In a recent Gallup survey, 46% of parents said they would rather their child get something other than a bachelor’s degree. A study from the Federal Reserve that came out in May found that only 56% of adults under 30 who went to college thought the benefits were greater than the costs.

Carolyn Johnson is an educational consultant. She helps young people figure out how to apply and get scholarships and other financial aid to fund college.

Alison, who is 23 and just graduated from Fordham University, and Amy, who is 21 and still a student there, each have about $20,000 in loans and scholarships.

Still, Johnson and her husband had to sell their house and use their retirement money to pay for the rest of the college costs. She says, “My husband thinks he’ll work until he’s 70.”

They sold their house because fixing the damage from several floods was costing them a lot of money. But paying for school with the money was also important, she says.

“I work in this field, so I know that education is the key to success,” she says. “We’ve lost things we cared about that were made of things, and we’ve learned that things don’t last, but education does.”


Why shouldn’t colleges be free?

Some schools have started giving money to families from a wider range of backgrounds. Stanford, for example, raised the income limit for students to get full-tuition scholarships from $125,000 to $150,000 in 2020. Households earning less than $75,000 have their room and board, along with tuition covered.

Dartmouth College, on the other hand, said that it will give out more scholarship grants instead of loans starting this summer.

But neither of these schools is easy to get into, so only a small number of students can use this help.

Ohio State meanwhile is offering an option that could benefit a wider array of students with its Scarlet and Gray Advantage, a program it said will begin a pilot this fall. It makes it possible for students to go to college for free during their first year by giving them scholarships, grants, job opportunities, and family contributions.

Such increases in debt-free aid are good examples for other schools that can afford to be more generous or can form partnerships that let them do so.

Free community college could also be a debt-free way to start college, but for now, that suggestion has been taken out of Biden’s Build Back Better bill, which Congress has not yet passed.

Many community colleges have agreements with certain colleges or universities that let students transfer to those schools if they take certain classes and get the required number of credits.

Carnevale says that more needs to be done to make sure that a two-tier system doesn’t take hold, in which students with lower incomes and students of color stay in two-year schools while more wealthy and white students go to four-year colleges.

In the meantime, he says, if families had a better idea of what majors or schools could help them get the best jobs and make the most money, competition between colleges could grow, slowing the steep rise in tuition.

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“Once you can measure value in great detail in any market or industry, you’ve started down the road to price competition,” he says. He also says that even though the data is available through tools like the College Scorecard, more families need to know about it.

Fund college by renting out a room

Michelle St. Onge said last summer that she was going to rent out a spare room in her house to help pay for her 18-year-old son Ethan to go to Clarkson University in the fall.

“We’re taking the leap based on the return on investment we think we’ll get after (graduation),” says St. Onge, who lives in Peru, New York. “But we still have to figure out how to pay for it now.” “I’m a single mom, and I’m the only one who can help him pay for school.”

Once Ethan is a sophomore, they’ll look at other ways to save money. For example, he could become a resident advisor to save money on room and board.

He might also need to get some student loans.

But that’s still a ways off.

“We’ve figured it out this first year,” she says. “Take it a year at a time.”


Editors’ Note: A version of this story came out in July 2022.

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