Finding a Silver Bullet Solution to the High Cost of College
By Joe Messinger, CFP®
September 22, 2017
Families with college-bound students are always on the look-out for a magical solution to the high cost of college. Our plan at Capstone includes careful planning combining savings, college research, tax strategies, scholarships, cash flow, and smart borrowing.
Our silver bullet is careful planning. However, some families may find that pursuing an additional program can work for them like studying in a foreign country or using employer-sponsored programs. These ideas may be ones you haven’t even heard of!
Can my student go to a university in Germany for free?
The short answer…yes. Wow, right?! Many countries in Europe consider a free education to be a right not a privilege, and their tuition is free. Note that sentence—“their tuition is free.”
Most higher education in other countries will incur fees although these are a fraction of the costs in the US. In addition, you must consider the standard of living in other countries. While tuition in Norway is free, living expenses are high.
Germany, France, and Iceland are among the list of countries that offer free tuition to US students. Not every country will offer classes in English (or they may change higher fees for English courses) so keep that in mind. Germany is one with a high proportion of English programs.
Also, pay attention to resident permit requirements for students spending more than a certain number of months in a foreign country. These vary by country.
Can a student receive federal financial aid for a college in another country?
Yes and no. The federal government includes student loans in their definition of “financial aid” so yes, you can receive federal student loans to help pay for an education in a foreign country. However, students cannot receive federal grants like the Pell Grant to use towards a degree at an international university.
To obtain federal student loans, a family must complete the FAFSA just like if the student was attending a US college. The Department of Education keeps a list of eligible foreign institutions: International Schools for Federal Student Loan Programs.
Remember, programs and requirements are always in flux. Not every college in a foreign country will offer free tuition. The prerequisites to obtain admission must be met. The practices of the past may change in years to come. Do your research. For the right student, the opportunity may be just the thing.
A second topic to touch base on are employer-sponsored tuition programs.
Companies like McDonald’s and Starbucks have developed programs to help their employees pay for college. Tuition assistance programs are a great way to attract and retain employees as well as broaden their education.
(Are you a business owner? Creating your own tuition reimbursement plan may be a good idea for you. Read more in our blog.)
McDonald’s Archways to Opportunity™ program has awarded over $14 million in high school and college tuition assistance including scholarships to employees. The awards are small and based on the number of hours worked each week, but every little bit helps.
Starbucks offers a College Achievement Plan which provides a 42% scholarship on the cost of tuition for online course through Arizona State University. Starbucks also has a program to help students qualify for admission by taking up to 10 freshmen level courses to earn admission to ASU.
These examples are just a snippet to get you thinking. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet to beat the high cost of college. But depending on the student, families can explore some unusual opportunities available.