College Funding

Financial Decisions that can sink your college funding plans

cost-of-college

“Well-Intentioned (Or Uninformed)
Financial Decisions That Can Sink
Your College Funding Plans”

 

Optimally preparing for the requirements related to future academic endeavors is no easy task… as college funding professionals who have access to the best and most accurate information regarding the admissions process, we have garnered the experience and understanding for these challenges!

However, we also know that parents can make some very damaging decisions if they make their financial decisions on their own, or if they decide to take some poor advice that would make sense under other circumstances… but NOT when considering the college financial situation. We are certain that it is important to make the best decisions with all factors being considered, and there are a number of excellent reasons for making sure that this is so.

Preparing for college funding does not always follow the traditional common sense regarding savings and planning, because simply put, the rules are different (and they tend to change a lot, making an already confusing situation even more puzzling for most people). For this reason, it makes all the sense in the world to make certain that the correct rules are being followed, and that the efforts are not going to actually turn into more of a problem later on. There are a number of things that can interfere with a family’s best efforts.

For this month’s newsletter, we are presenting some common errors made by well-meaning parents and families when managing these details. Should any questions about these college preparation subjects pop up, or other similar issues arise, please be sure to give us a call. We have all of the pertinent details in these areas and provide the beat and most current information when it comes to managing college preparation efforts.

Please make sure that you do not fall victim to these well-intentioned problems!

1. Not Understanding Exactly What The Financial Aid Offer Says

This seems like it would not be a problem, but, sadly, for many families it is. Many families will receive an aid package from a college and not fully understand the nature of the aid stated in the package. Colleges are not always very clear about making the distinctions between loans and grants and that lack of clarity can get incoming students and their parents into trouble.

Many of the packages do not fully disclose interest rates or reveal the average monthly payments, etc. This can make it very difficult for parents to understand exactly what is being offered to their child. Moreover, many parents will look at the loan offer and make the assumption that it will reduce the cost of the tuition. This is, obviously, not the case. Only grants will reduce the cost of tuition and other college fees.

This lack of clarity may or may not be intentional on the part of colleges. In many cases, mathematicians are the only ones who can fully decipher a financial aid offer and calculate the ultimate cost over time. One of the ways to solve this problems is to ask questions.

Parents should ask whether or not loans will be ‘front-loaded’ meaning that the bulk will be offered during the first year but taper off over the following years. Finding out where the loan money is originated is also important to know.

Ultimately, if it is not explicitly shown… then be sure to ask and verify the answers. It is the only safe course of action.

2. Reporting Assets Incorrectly

Many families end up ‘over-reporting.’ This means that parents will include assets on the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) that are not actually required on the application. Many parents will state their retirement assets and their home equity on the FAFSA when that is actually not a requirement on the form.

Look very carefully on the form to determine exactly what is and is not required. Or, better yet, ask for your help from your college funding counselor who can guide you in the right direction and help you optimize your situation.

3. Co-Signing for a Student Loan Without Full Understanding

Parents will often gladly co-sign on a loan for their son or daughter thinking that it will release them from any obligation to that loan. That could not be further from the truth. Any person on a loan is equally responsible for the repayment of that loan. If a son or daughter fails to make payments on the loan, then the repayment obligation automatically falls to the co-signer. For parents, that means that they are on the hook as a co-signer.

Many parents think that because they are not the primary person on the loan that it absolves them from making any payments on that loan. It just simply isn’t so.

It is important to understand exactly what is being signed – especially when it comes to student loans. Those obligations can almost never be discharged in bankruptcy, so students (and sometimes parents) will certainly be responsible for them.

4. Opting For a Private Loan Instead of a Federal Loan

Private lenders can be pretty tricky. Many interest rates that are advertised lately are as low as around 3%. Those low rates can look very attractive to prospective students and their parents. When compared to unsubsidized Stafford loans, which might be around 6 %, it  can seem that one is getting a really good deal. That does not tell the full story, however.

The main difference with private loans is that the loans are underwritten. This means that the loan must be scrutinized by an underwriter and will often require a cosigner. The rates are often a ‘come on’ and do not reflect the actual rates that will be received after going through the loan approval process.

Another drawback is that these loans are often variable. That means that after the low introductory rate, the loan will go up in interest even to the double digits. The loans also do not have the same repayment options offered to those who get federally funded loans. The repayment process is often much more strict and that can be a strain on newly graduated students who do not have the income to make the full payments required on the loan.

5. Saving “Too Much”

The old adage, “A penny saved is a penny earned,” takes on an even stronger meaning when it comes to college funding – and the rules for college funding can even turn this saying right on its ear. Let’s say, for example, that your child has worked hard over many vacations and has $10,000 saved in a savings account under his or her name. That is just terrific, right? Well, maybe… but not so fast.

About 20% of those hard earned savings could well be added to the EFC (or Estimated Family Contribution) when the fed begins calculating eligibility for aid… which can often mean that the overall amount of financial aid eligibility is actually adversely affected by the student’s own hard work and savings!

Now, there are other strategies to help work around this sort of situation legally, including continuing to save for your child’s education – but it may be worth looking into doing so under a parent’s name in another bank account. This is definitely a case where a chat with a professional college funding advisor can make a huge difference.

As you can see, making wise and prudent decisions regarding higher education financial planning – as well as college application strategies – can be an extremely challenging endeavor. It only makes sense to approach this effort teamed up with a college funding professional. Doing so allows families to understand and select the optimal strategies that correspond to their own financial and academic situations, meaning that the chances of success (both financially and academically) will climb.
All of the actions discussed in this month’s newsletter are not rare – they happen each and every year to unsuspecting college-bound kids and their parents – and we view it as part of our professional responsibility to assist families in avoiding these problems, as well and many others like them. We have a number of tools to assist in this effort.
One of our most dynamic and effective options for the education of parents with high school kids who will attend college is through in-person attendance at one of our College Funding Workshops. These presentations are moderated and instructed by some of the finest college funding professionals available. We see these workshops as a dedicated, in-person option for parents who wish to inform themselves with the best informational set about all manner of financial “dos and don’ts,” as well as governmental regulations related to their family and their higher education planning.

Our  workshops have no admission cost, and are being held in larger venues to allow for social distancing.  If you don’t want to venture out quite yet, we have a short virtual talk which runs daily. Despite having no admission fee for attendance, we must make certain that each event has a group size that manages both space limits and our experiences with creating a successful learning environment. Because of this, we insist on advance reservations for the best possible planning and delivery of a quality event. Thank you for understanding.

Until next month

 

Let’s talk College Admissions & Funding Myths

 

“Understanding and Overcoming These MYTHS About College Funding And Admissions”

Dear Parent,

Here’s wishing you a happy holiday season with memorable times with your family and friends.  At this time of the year we find that it is a fine time for reflection on the wonderful experiences and accomplishments both this year and in years past.  For many families this includes wonderful college and university experiences that have added richness, enjoyment, and success to their family lives.  Higher education is certainly a sacrifice and a lot of effort, but there is no question that the value of it echoes over time.

With that in mind, this month’s newsletter emphasizes some of the elements of “commonly held wisdom” about college that turn out not to be true at all!  These myths about college funding and admissions seem to persist for a variety of reasons.  Some of them might have been true (or partially true) many years ago, but times have changed.  Others might have affected one person (or a very few people), but unfounded rumors about their prevalence seem to persist.  Still others have no real basis in fact whatsoever, but get passed around by people who do not know the details themselves.  However they get started however, we view it as our responsibility to make sure the truth is available!  After all, college admissions and funding issues affect EVERY college bound student to some degree or other…

We hope that as these myths and rumors are put to rest, you will feel free to pass good information on to other parents… and should other questions or suspicious bits of information arise in the future, please feel free to use us (your College Funding Professional) as a sounding board for the most up to date information – as well as how this information might directly affect your student and your family.

Without further ado, then, allow us to tackle a few of the most common myths and rumors that seem to persist from year to year to year – obviously, if we find ourselves running into them each and every college cycle, then we are pretty sure that many of you parents (and students) will see them, as well.  With this information, and any other questions we might be able to answer for you in an individual setting, you will be well on your way to managing the college admissions and funding process with a healthy set of facts and knowledge…

And knowledge, in this case as well as many others, is definitely powerful! 

MYTH 1. “Everyone Graduates With Student Debt”

Absolutely NOT!  The simple truth is that not everyone graduates with student debt. It is quite common, to be sure, especially in the current financial circumstances… but there are plenty of possibilities for a student to leave college without the burden of student debt. There are always some fortunate (intelligent, well-organized) students and parents who manage to finish the college years without it. It is not necessarily easy, but with the proper advice and planning it is absolutely possible.

If your child is an excellent student, there will always be additional options available. Your child can apply for scholarships for part of the cost. High GPAs and standardized test scores may also make your child eligible for some scholarships and grants directly from the school to which s/he is applying. Applying to the right schools and having strong academic scores will certainly help to make your child a very attractive applicant. Schools will then often be willing to do what they can to attract your child and that can translate, in some cases, to a full-ride – although these scholarships are rare.

In some cases, your child may go to a school that is not his or her first choice in favor of a package that provides more aid. If leaving school without a mountain of debt is a high priority for you and your child then this may be a suitable choice.  However, your College Funding Advisor can often help to mitigate these types of circumstances if families start the process early enough!

MYTH 2. “Going To College Is Just About Gaining Book-Smarts”

This may have been true at one time, when education was for education’s sake (for better and for worse) but the reality is these days that higher education is also a business. Colleges want to ensure their investment in any student is a solid one. They also want to make sure they are solvent. This can mean higher and higher tuition costs and fees. While this can seem disheartening at first glance, it can also be empowering for prospective students.

Just like any business, consumers have leverage over businesses. If they do not like something, they can always take their business elsewhere. This is a tack that can be used when applying to colleges. If your child is an excellent student and/or an intriguing applicant, it is completely acceptable to pit one school against the other in order to amass the most amount of aid. It is good business for colleges to find the brightest students, so they will do what is necessary to make it worth your child’s while to attend their college.  Your College Funding Advisor is well versed in the best strategies for making this work to your student’s advantage.

MYTH 3. “College Is Always Really Expensive”

Well, we will be the first to admit that higher education CAN be really expensive… but it doesn’t have to be, and it does not have to lead to debt, as indicated above. If one is willing to get creative and ‘think outside the box’ then getting a college education without breaking the bank is not only possible, it’s probable.

For example, if your child is taking AP classes in high school more often than not, these classes will count as college classes and your child can actually earn some college credit while in high school. Each college and university is different so it would be worth your while to do the research as to what classes will be accepted as credit and so forth.  We will be pleased to assist in that if necessary.

For students, applying to a diverse group of schools is a smart choice. It will broaden the options for your child and the types of award packages they will receive. This means more choices and more freedom for your child to choose the one that is the best fit.  The better the offer from the financial aid office at each school, the smaller the bill becomes!

MYTH 4. “Private Schools Are Expensive – My Child Can’t Attend One”

Private schools usually ARE expensive – at least, the sticker shock is high – but, as we’ve previously elaborated, it doesn’t have to be. The list price for private schools can be shocking to most, but it is rarely what students end up actually having to pay. Private schools often cost more off the top, sure, but private schools also almost always have more money to give to their incoming students. In fact, depending on your child’s academic and extracurricular credentials, s/he could pay less at a fancy private institution than an in-state school.

Aid packages from private schools often tend to be heftier than those from public schools. Making it known to the admissions officers that your child is seriously comparing other colleges may prompt them to increase an aid package. It’s not a guarantee, but as we indicated above, it is a tactic that you can use. An aid package received is not written in stone. You can always respectfully have the financial aid office review a package in light of new information, or when comparing it to another aid package that is similar but slightly more competitive. It never hurts to ask, and you never know what will happen. Your child may just get into a great private school at a super price!

MYTH 5. “If You Make Enough Money, Don’t File Financial Aid Forms”

Regardless of your financial circumstances, it is always a good idea to fill out financial aid forms. There are several reasons for this. For example, if you do not apply, you will not receive any aid. Now that seems quite simplistic, however, if circumstances change while your child is in school and a need were to suddenly arise, s/he would not be eligible for any aid because there would be no forms on file.  It is better to be safe than sorry!

Also, even if your child is able to attend school without any need-based aid, is s/he has qualified for scholarships, those funds will not be released unless there are financial aid forms on file. So, while it may seem unnecessary if you are in the fortunate circumstance of being able to send your child to school without the need of extra aid, you never know what can happen in the future. It is better to take the time to file those financial aid forms, and we are happy to assist.

 

Parents and college-bound students will run into more incorrect details than just these, of course, but it is for precisely that reason that we are pleased to make ourselves available for consultations and individual questions.  Feel free to ask us about any details surrounding your child’s college application process, as well as how parents can best tackle the financial questions surrounding this enormous step.

Parents often find that their jobs in the overall higher education process are every bit as challenging as the students applying for and attending their dream schools!  We make it our business to apply our knowledge and educational skills to help simplify both the parental tasks and the student efforts.

One of our most successful teaching options for the delivery of this vital information to parents is through our excellent College Funding Workshops.  These are live workshops delivered by certified College Funding Professionals specifically for the parents of today’s college-bound students.  According to feedback from our attendees, these presentations really deliver the informational goods when it comes to providing an introduction to the college funding information parents need.

We always schedule our workshops at locations and times (including evening and weekend options) that will mesh with parents and their busy schedules. While we refuse to charge any admission costs for workshop attendance, an advance reservation is required for safety and planning purposes.  If you have questions or would like more information, or to reserve a seat for one of upcoming dates, please just call our office.

While the workshops are a great option, we also know that some parents are more likely to want to digest the basics for college funding preparation on their own.  Because of this fact, and because there are always some parents who simply cannot attend a workshop, we publish a written report which also introduces this information.  The publication covers the financial education needs of today’s parents of college bound kids, and it really does introduce the college funding process in an excellent and easily understandable way.

The report is called “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College,” and each year parents report that it is an outstanding resource for learning the basics for funding a future college or university education.  To receive a free copy of the “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College” report, which is also free of charge or obligation, give our team a ring at 614.934.1515. We will be very pleased to put a copy of it into the mail for you immediately.

Happy Holidays!

Until next month,

marc signature