Financial Advice

Not Going Off to College? 4 Ways Students Can Adjust

If going away to college this fall is no longer in the cards, here are some ways to adjust for your gap year.

Published Sep 1, 2021 | Updated May 8, 2024

A global pandemic can do funny things to one’s big plans — like plans to go off to college in the fall. Some colleges now offer only virtual classes. Others are open but with a mix of in-person and remote class offerings. Across the higher education community, institutions are continually evaluating and modifying their strategies to ensure a healthy learning (and for many, living) environment.

For recent high school graduates, the evolving changes are causing some to reconsider going away for the freshman year, or postponing it altogether. If things you can’t control mean delaying your college plans, the decision may come with some financial adjustments.

More Time to Save

The good news is that taking a gap year while the new college normal settles in allows you more time to save for eventual college expenses. A recent survey found that about one in five current students is unsure of plans to re-enroll or has decided not to go to college this fall.

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On average, one year of Texas in-state tuition runs just over $9,800. By continuing to sock away a portion of your earnings every month during a gap year, you can take a substantial bite out of your eventual college tab.

If your parents have been planning for your college expenses with contributions to a 529 college savings plan1, a gap year gives them more time to build up your nest egg. Since contributions are made after taxes, 529 money grows tax-free2, and it won’t be taxed when it’s withdrawn as long as you use it for approved educational expenses, including tuition, fees, and room and board.

Rethink Housing Needs

No longer leaving home for a distant campus? Talk to your apartment leasing agent or on-campus housing advisor to understand deadlines and penalties for cancelling housing agreements. Lease cancellation penalties often are based on a portion of monthly rent, and can be costly.

Make sure you act prior to deadlines to avoid cancellation penalties, where possible. If you’ve already missed cancellation deadlines, look into sublease options and begin advertising your available property as soon as possible. With potentially fewer students physically attending classes, it’s likely that demand for rental housing will be less and your apartment will be competing against other available properties.

Adjust Food Budget

Mom and dad may have budgeted less for their grocery bills as empty nesters. Groceries for an empty nester couple average nearly $3,500 per year.

If you had planned to pay for a school meal plan while away, that unspent money can be earmarked to help with a bigger food bill at home.

Gain More Experience

A gap year is a great time to start propping up your resume. Look for job opportunities that let you expand marketable skills. Even if it’s not your dream job, what you learn from it may help you in the future. For instance, an entry-level administrative role can be the chance to perfect project management software or boost your PowerPoint prowess. Internships are another great way to build a portfolio of work experience, and build the all-important professional network you’ll need in future job searches. Lending your time to charitable, volunteer opportunities is also a good way to learn skills, meet people, and do good for the community, too.

1 Non-deposit investment products and services are offered through CUSO Financial Services, L.P. ("CFS"), a registered broker-dealer (Member FINRA/SIPC) and SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Products offered through CFS: are not NCUA/NCUSIF or otherwise federally insured, are not guarantees or obligations of the credit union, and may involve investment risk including possible loss of principal. Investment Representatives are registered through CFS. UFCU has contracted with CFS to make non-deposit investment products and services available to credit union members.
2 CFS does not provide tax or legal advice. For such guidance, please consult a tax and/or legal advisor.