Before College: Here’s a Great College Affordability Strategy for Your High School Students

Would you and your children be interested in a Pre-College Finance Plan strategy that generates funds for college and has almost a dozen other advantages? If so, here it is — have your children to work part-time while in high school.

Understand that we’re not advocating sending your children out to work in the midst of the current COVID pandemic. Some of the jobs most available to high schoolers, such as cashiers and fast food workers, appear to have the highest COVID infection rates.

But if the vaccine breakthrough recently announced becomes widely available over the next five or six months, it could become much safer to hold such jobs sometime during the second half of 2021.

Before the pandemic, 25% of high schoolers and 40% of college students worked. Those who did achieved higher levels of independence, became better time managers, built resumes and professional networks, enjoyed increased confidence, earned money that, if saved, helped reduce their reliance on college loans, and gained skills transferable to future jobs.

It’s unfortunate that fast food workers are currently at such risk of contracting COVID, because part-time positions in fast food restaurants are particularly well-suited for high school students. For one thing, there are many such jobs and fast food establishments are constantly hiring.

These jobs also require little or no experience and often offer flexible work schedules. Plus, fast food’s average hourly wage of $11 can generate a little more than $8,000 per year for employees working less than 15 hours per week. This can significantly enlarge your high schoolers’ college savings and pocket money.

Best of all, many — not all, but many — fast food companies try to recruit and retain good employees by offering to help them pay for college. A great example of this is the Chipotle restaurant chain. It’s “Cultivate Me” benefits for crew members offers $5,250 per year for college, supports debt-free education for crew members who seek certain business and technology degrees, and pays quarterly bonuses to crews whose restaurants meet certain performance measures.

Chipotle’s not alone. Several other employers both inside and outside the fast food industry offer benefit programs that help pay for college. And even in the midst of the COVID recession, they’re generally maintaining these programs.

True, delivering packages, flipping burgers, and serving tacos isn’t glamorous work. But the money your high school students can earn, and especially the postsecondary benefit programs some employers offer, can really help make their postsecondary education more affordable. So when it’s safe for them to seek employment, recommend they consider fast food jobs and always ask potential employers about their employee education benefits programs.

Need help designing your Pre-College Finance Plan? Let College Affordability Solutions help. We bring over 40 years experience to this topic. And we serve as consultants for parents and students at no charge. Set up a consultation with us by calling (512) 366-5354 or by emailing

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