Even if you can’t pay for their tuition, here are some ways you can still support your college student.
If your student commutes
- Rent-free living. Let them live at home — rent-free — and commute. If their schedule allows, they can “pay” you back in the form of doing chores, running errands or cooking dinner. However, this is as good a time as any to give a no-strings-attached gift!
- Transportation. In addition, you could offer the use of the family car to get to school and/or work. If you can’t afford to let your child use your car, can you arrange car-pooling? Pay for their gas?
- Food. The cost of food can add up whether your child uses a meal plan or decides to cook for him or herself. Providing food can be a great way to lift the burden on them.
If your student doesn’t commute
- Help out with the rent. If you child lives in an apartment, assist with some of the rent, if you can. If they live in a dorm, maybe you can pay for dorm expenses.
- Scour garage sales. Look at Craigslist, and ask friends and family for any inexpensive house furnishings.
- Give practical gifts. Does your child need sheets? Kitchen utensils? You know they’ll need the practical necessities. There are numerous ways you can take the stress off of your child as they make this transition to independence.
- Give food or gift cards to grocery stores. I heard the story of one grandmother who always sent her grandchildren back to college each week with a bag full of groceries. You don’t have to provide everything, but you know what your kids love, and that can be a wonderful gift.
Helping with other non-tuition expenses
Whether or not your student commutes, there are other non-tuition expenses associated with attending college. Even if you can’t pay for any classes, consider paying for their books. Don’t forget to check out used options! Some colleges also offer textbook rental programs. In addition, there are other fees that appear on your student’s college bill. If you can afford to pay for just $20 in fees, that still helps. Of course, some of the ways you can contribute to their financial success don’t cost you a dime.
- Help your child navigate the confusing world of student loans so they better understand the differences between grants and loans.
- Help them apply for scholarships.
- While they’re still in high school, help them develop their interests, tour colleges, find mentors, practice job interview skills and polish their resumes.
Helping them financially, even in small ways while they are attending college can be just what they need to get through the college years.