Suppose you’ve decided to continue with your child’s education amid this pandemic; hats off to you. For many people today, that isn’t an easy decision to make. Before the COVID-19 pandemic started to abound earlier this year, student loan debt in America was already at a record-breaking high, with 44 million holding a collective debt of $1.5 trillion in the United States. And we can expect those numbers to rise. Experts have estimated that in 2023, the total loan debt outstanding will reach $2 trillion.
With medical professionals estimating that social distancing guidelines might still need to be followed until the end of 2021, likely, online classes will also continue to be held until then. The problem is that many families have been struggling financially because of unemployment rates. Students and parents have been lobbying for schools to cut tuition fees because of the current educational situation. And while some institutions have complied, many continue to refuse.
Have a side hustle
At this point, you’ve probably already considered selling annuities, so the other things you have to sell are your skills. There are many opportunities to book freelance gigs on the internet. Platforms like Fiverr, Upwork, Freelancer, and TaskRabbit are chock-full of people looking for others to do even the briefest of jobs.
There are other things you can try. If you or anyone in your family has a knack for crafts making, you can monetize those skills by putting up a shop on Etsy. The online business platform is home to millions of independent entrepreneurs selling handmade goods and has a staggering number of 60 million active customers. Though it’s easier said than done, if you have a skill for craft making, you can surely find a market you could cater to on Etsy.
If crafts aren’t your forte, you can sell your pre-loved apparel and belongings online. Depop, thredUP, and Facebook Marketplace all offer user-friendly experiences for both buyers and sellers.
If your child is of working age, you can also encourage them to start working part-time. Not only will they earn extra cash for their savings and expenses, but the work experience will also help them to slowly start becoming more financially independent and even build a professional network. They also develop skills in communication and time management.
Look into scholarships and funds
Of course, you’ve probably already looked through this option. But you still might have missed some opportunities for funding. Whether your child’s school has already awarded them with financial aid, there are still other things you can try. You can take out a private student loan from a bank or look towards government agencies for funding. The Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) was created by the government to help students pay for their education during COVID-19. If your child is in college, there’s a list of scholarships you can look up on College Scholarships.org. As much as possible, look for free financial aid grants — the kind you or your child won’t have to pay for after he or she has graduated.
Plan for the next school years
If you find that you won’t be able to sustain this business of looking for loans and grants, or perhaps you’ve decided that paying tuition for your child to not be on campus isn’t worth it, discuss your plans for next year.
If money is very tight for you at the moment and you’re considering making your child take a gap year, that might not be the best idea. Weigh your options first. Taking a gap year — delaying your child’s graduation by at least one year — can actually cost much more than them graduating on time. Though we don’t know how much longer the pandemic could last, experts say that waiting for it to end by taking a year off school to work won’t reward your child with benefits.
You probably already have this in mind, but if your child is going to college soon, it may be better if they chose to attend an in-state public school. Because the virus is still abounding and shows no signs of stopping, students will be more secure financially, physically, and emotionally by choosing an in-state public college.
COVID-19 is shaping the landscape of education as a whole. Traditional schools have been forced to run their operations online. Online learning platforms, such as Coursera, have seen a dramatic surge in enrollments since March. Experts say that the rise of online learning could pose a serious threat to traditional college degrees. We’ll have to wait and see how this unfolds, but the pandemic may likely cause employers to value online degrees more than they used to. If that happens, it may be better to enroll your children in cheaper — and sometimes free — Coursera classes rather than give them a traditional education.
As the pandemic stretches on indefinitely, people will prioritize their financial stability more and more. While nothing is set in stone, it’s best to make plans for funding your children’s pandemic-era education as early as now.