Local programs helping central Illinoisans save college money

Local News

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — For parents, sending  kids off to college can be tough emotionally, but it’s often tougher financially.

Some organizations in the Twin Cities are offering ways for people to learn how to save more money. Many say the trick to saving money is to start saving early, but a different way of thinking is starting a college degree early.

Thanks to Heartland Community College, high school kids can take college classes in high school … Saving time and money down the road. In the last five years, Heartland’s dual credit program has saved high school students in central Illinois $4.9 million in community college tuition and fees.

“All of our students that participate in the college now program through their high school or career centers within district 540 receive a tuition waiver, tuition and fee waiver from the college at the point of enrollment,” said Alauna Akins, HCC Associate Director of Secondary Education.

In addition to saving money, students walk away more prepared for college.

Joe Buhrmann with Country Financial says parents can bring their kids into the conversation about the cost of their education. 

“It’s the talk about college, let’s go through what mom and dad have saved, let’s go through what the actual costs are going to be,” he said. “What are going to be your expectations to have some skin in the game to pay for those expenses?”

He went on to say students should properly vet the school and career they choose to get the best bang for their buck when earning a degree.

Preparing for college is also a priority for Illinoisans, and many are shelling out money long before actually enrolling to improve their chances, or their child’s chances, of success. Some are moving to homes in better school districts (15%); enrolling in SAT or ACT classes (14%); taking lessons such as music, language or art (8%); or participating in private sports such as travel baseball, club tennis, gymnastics, etc. (8%). 

All of these extracurriculars come at a cost – nearly two in 10 Illinoisans (17%) estimate they or their parents paid between $5,000 and $10,000 annually for the above activities. Some Illinoisans are also sacrificing other priorities to pay for education and extracurricular activities; 13% say they’ve cut back on retirement savings, and 37% are forgoing vacations. 

Illinoisans who attended college or are planning to say they are taking steps to save money. Most work while attending (68%), some have applied for scholarships (35%), and many attended community college (37%). Others have taken out student loans (44%) to assist with the cost. Almost half of Illinoisans who have taken out student loans say it took them, or they anticipate it will take them, 10 years or less to pay them off. 

Not all of those surveyed attended college. Nearly two in 10 Illinoisans (19%) stated they did not attend because it was too expensive. However, 11% enrolled in trade school, and 3% enlisted in the military. 

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