Never to late to save for higher education
Column by Doug Walker
For some reason, these talks always seem to start in the kitchen . . .
You're standing there making dinner and that big kid you gave birth to walks up, looks you in the eye (or down at you) and says, "Hey, we were talking at school today about colleges we'd like to attend. You know, I think I'd like to go to Harvard."
And your heart sinks to the bottom of your stomach.
If you're like a majority of parents, you've done what you could to save for this day. The day you know you'll have to talk about scholarships. And financial aid. And scrimping and doing without, on an already tight household budget. It's here -- the day the college bill comes due.
You're not alone. According to a US Department of Education 2009-2010 report, tuition for a public, four-year school ranges about $6,400 to about $14,000 a year. Students attending a private, not-for-profit College can plan on spending an average of $21,000 a year up to $51,000 at higher priced schools. Private, for-profit institutions average over $15,000 annual tuition to about $46,000 at higher priced schools. When you add books, housing and dozens of additional fees, you can expect to pay anywhere from about $30,000 to well over $200,000 for a college degree.
Many parents hope that student loans can be the answer, but 67% of all students are graduating with an average loan debt of $34,000 - not a way any parent wants their child to start a successful adult life. And for many, the days of students working their way through college are gone. The market place is saturated with people with BA's and BS's working in lower paying jobs that previously would have been filled by industrious college students.
So what is the answer?
We have two groups we need to talk to today; those with young children and those with student's ninth grade and above.
For those with young children:
Seek the assistance of a certified college planner while your child is still small. Why? Because proper early planning can give parents the financial advantage when it comes time to pay for college. Money saved "bit by bit" accumulates fast and by the time the baby we once held in our arms 17 years ago is ready to go to college, a substantial savings account is available for tuition and other college expenses.
Imagine this: If you saved only $50 a month towards your child's college education for 17 years, they would have over $15,000 accumulated for tuition and expenses. If over the years, parents' incomes allowed for a more substantial monthly contribution, then even more money would be available for college.
For those with children ninth grade and above (even graduating seniors):
Even if your savings are not where they should be at this time, do not be dismayed! College planners are knowledgeable about how to access money available through student loans, grants and scholarships, as well as helping you plan for college with available funds.
That's what the college planning business is all about! A good college planner can help you navigate complicated college paperwork like the FAFSA, CSS Profile applications, and other overwhelming paperwork.
A college planning professional can also assist parents and students with detailed problem solving solutions. Industry-wide free workshops and no cost consultations can calm both parents and student's anxieties and fears during this difficult time.
Here's a wakeup call. Award letters are coming in for seniors now. Most parents are not clear about what their student deserves. Clear strategic planning can assure parents that everything has been done to give the child the greatest advantage, including searching for the best college, showing the student in the best light, reviewing essays and award letters or appealing award letters for fair funding. This can make all the difference for you and your child, potentially saving countless dollars in the years to come.
As college planners, we are thankful to the colleges for educating our children, but remember they are in the money-making business. Our main goal is to guide parents and students through the challenging college maze.
Parents and students - you are not alone. Each month our articles will contain valuable information about financial planning, choosing the best college for your student, and paying for college when the tuition bill is due. Check us out here each month for more valuable information.