Why Flying to College Can Be Cheaper

For lots of parents, plane tickets are the college deal breaker.

Many parents balk at letting their kids attend any school that will require them to fly.

I think this focus on airline costs can be unfortunate. Sure plane tickets are even more expensive than a year ago, but the important thing is looking at all your potential costs and figuring out the best way to slash them.

Ironically, distant schools can sometimes be far cheaper because colleges and universities crave geographic diversity. A school in Ohio or Pennsylvania, for instance, would love to have a child from Atlanta, Denver, Little Rock or San Diego, where my family lives. In many cases these schools are willing to pony up more financial aid or merit money to snag a kid from a distant time zone.

During our daughter’s freshman year, my husband and I spent less than $1,200 to fly Caitlin back and forth from her college in rural Pennsylvania. The cost would have been cheaper if she didn’t require a connection to the tiny airport in State College, PA.

We offset that cost considerably, however, because we didn’t have to pay any car insurance for Caitlin during her entire freshman year at college. Our insurer, 21st Century, grants four waivers a year to students who are attending college elsewhere and who will not be driving a car. When my daughter returned for Christmas and spring break, we called the insurer to notify it that she would be driving again and the insurer sent us an official waiver. We did the same this summer, but she spent most of June and July in southern Mexico studying so her time home wasn’t that long.

Of course, the cost of the plane tickets is going to look like a bargain if the alternative is paying for your child to have a car at school. Now that’s expensive.

A story this week at MSN Money, which quotes me, talks much more about all the incidental costs of college.

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