Tips for Last-Minute College Funding


NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- It’s late August, and if you’re a parent wrestling with college costs, the living ain’t – sorry, "isn't" – easy.

According to the College Board, while the rest of the economy goes into the tank, college costs are actually rising and will continue to do so. Here are the numbers for projected four-year tuition and fees from the organization:

  • Private College: 2010: $119,400 / 2028: $340,800
  • Public College: 2010: $33,300 / 2028: $95,000

But help is on the way: If you’re struggling to close the deal on this year’s college costs, Sallie Mae can help you fill the tuition gap with these key tips. And interest-free tuition is at the top of the list.

First off, parents facing what Sallie Mae calls a “financial gap” can contact the company directly for last-minute financing. Sallie Mae says it has a wide variety of funding programs, including interest-free tuition payment plans, private education loans and other funding programs (the company calls such plans “financial life savers”).

The organization also emphasizes that it’s willing to help families with short-term financing issues. “Sallie Mae recognizes the juggling act many families perform to make the investment in a college education for their children, to save simultaneously for retirement and to meet other financial goals,” said Charlie Rocha, senior vice president at Sallie Mae. “The good news is that there are a variety of resources and options available for families facing financial deadlines for college over the coming days.”

Here’s a look at those resources:

Interest-free tuition. Sallie Mae is a big advocate of interest-free tuition, and says that such plans are available at “hundreds of college campuses.” These arrangements allow you to evenly spread payments out instead of paying a lump sum at the start of every college semester.

Try a “responsible” private loan. Sallie Mae is also a fan of what it calls “responsible” private loans. Its own program has three “flexible payment levels” (you can find them here); one option allows students to pay just $25 per month while in school, or to not start repaying the loan until the student has graduated. Students can also earn discounts up to 2% of the loan value by paying their loan off every month, on time.

Protect your money with tuition insurance. If your son or daughter is incapacitated and can’t attend school because of illness or injury, tuition insurance can reimburse you for up to 100% of the “lost cost of attendance” as Sallie Mae puts it.

Sallie Mae itself offers a student credit card that gives college kids discounts and cash back on purchases from “hundreds of retailers.” It also has deals with used textbook outlets like, Barnes & Noble and, where students can earn between 4% and 6% in rewards dollars on book purchases.

Lagging behind on your college financing is entirely understandable, give the toxic nature of the U.S. economy. But you can close the gap – and quickly – with some tips from the formerly government-sponsored lender.

Are you worried about making ends meet on college tuition? Take a look at MainStreet's rundown of the best colleges for financial aid!

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