Last-minute and alternative money-saving strategies
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It might behoove students to spring for the study guidespriced between $10 and $25as none of the tests are complete snaps. About 75 percent of DSST test-takers pass; the College Board says that the vast majority of its takers pass the Spanish tests, but most students flunk its calculus test.
Families willing to make some serious lifestyle sacrificesno more cable TV, restaurant meals, fancy lattes, vacations, and the likecan typically generate several thousand dollars a year in savings, says Rick Darvis, founder of College Funding, a financial aid consulting firm in Plentywood, Montana. A less painful way to reduce monthly expenses is to consolidate car and credit card debts into a home equity line, he says. Chris Borzych, a certified financial planner for USAA in San Antonio, also recommends that parents of new college students reevaluate their life insurance policies. Now that Junior is almost grown up, parents typically need less coverage, and thus might be able to reduce monthly payments or take something out of a cash value account.
Try public service
Students who want to serve their country by joining the military can earn big tuition credits. Those who want to serve at home can join Americorps (www.americorps.org). Students spend one year working on projects like tutoring inner-city kids or helping with hurricane relief. They get an annual stipend (usually $10,000) to cover basic living expenses. After they finish, they receive a $4,725 grant toward tuition if they enroll in college within seven years. Many colleges, including Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, and Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, offer extras such as matching grants or course credit, which saves Americorps veterans even more time and money. While Americorps deadlines are as early as November 30 for programs that start the following August or September, some deadlines are more flexible. City Year (www.cityyear.org), an Americorps program in several major cities, for example, will take applications even in July for its mid-August sessions.
It may not be too late to start a 529 savings plan or a Coverdell Education Savings Account. Parents of college freshmen need to think about funding the junior and senior year, as well asdon't faintlaw school or other graduate study. Parents can kick start the 529 savings account by asking relatives to make donations in lieu of Christmas and birthday presents. Bruce Harrington, head of 529 savings plans for the mutual fund company MFS Investment Management in Boston, has no qualms about alerting his relatives: "I've told them. No more toys for Christmas. I'd rather have $100 in their 529 than have another toy to trip over." And the various rebate programs such as Upromise and BabyMint can help. While the rebates typically aren't bonanzas, another $100 or so a year is certainly nothing to sneeze at.