It is the question at the back of every parents mind, “How am I going to help my kids get through college?” Let’s face it, information technology has increased the demand for higher education significantly. College grads make $1.3 Million dollars more than their High School Graduate counterparts. Even with the help from the federal government, 75% of the students who do not finish cite financial concerns as the reason for dropping out. Even more disturbing is dropout rates are climbing. The 2000 census indicates that one in three college students does not finish their studies. This is up from one in five reported in an earlier study. So, how do you help your child navigate the financial jungle called college?

5) Federal Financial Aid. Submitting a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the most important step in obtaining assistance in paying for college. Programs vary from Grants, which do not have to be paid back, to subsidized loans (in which the interest is paid for while in school), and unsubsidized loans (loans in which the interest is tacked on to the principal of the loan while the student attends school). The amounts and types of programs in which one qualifies for depends on several factors. See resources section for a link to the online FASFA.

4) GI Bill/Military. The Montgomery GI Bill provides a lot of help in the education department. With several different programs in existence now, and the future programs likely to change, it is futile to go into all the details. At the least, the GI Bill should help cover about 3 years worth of living expenses, so the potential student can focus more on their studies than paying to live. Some people are turned off by the fact of having their children serve in the military, however the military can instill quite a few valuable traits in your child that will serve them well in the future, not to mention provide credit towards that expensive degree, which will reduce the amount of tuition needed to pay. Several states will waiver the cost of tuition at a state university for veterans, and some other states provide other little known benefits. See the resources section for a complete list of the benefits provided for each state

3) Private Scholarships. While hard to obtain, several resources exist to find private money slated for winners of competitions. Some scholarships come directly from the school, and others come from companies for promotional purposes. The funds are limited, and go quickly. Apply, apply, and apply.

2) Live Frugally. Teach them the value of the dollar early on. Proper use of credit is an imperative lesson. Just because you can charge it, doesn’t mean that you should. Do they really need a $500 iPhone? Are $300 bar tabs a necessary expense for attending college? Would $50 at the beer distributor or liquor store accomplish the same task, in a safer environment? Do they really need to finance a trip to study for the summer in Ireland?

1) Plan Ahead. A wise man said “Fail to plan, and you plan to fail”. One fully paid for rental property can provide enough extra income to make life manageable for college students. Of course, acquiring a rental property and paying it off in time requires advance planning, discipline, and capital investment. For those who are unable to provide all of the above resources, a company called Scholar Bears can help. For as little as $10 a month, parents can secure $48,000 in college funding for their child. As with the rest of the links mentioned in the article, you can find a link to them in the Resources section.