DRIVE TO HOSPITAL. Cut the umbilical cord. Figure out names. Open a 529.
While the primary focus upon our two babies’ births was bonding, I had another item to check off: I opened a 529 college savings account for each one within a month of their births.
It’s paid off handsomely. Through automatic monthly contributions—plus stellar market performance over the past decade—they’ve amassed sizable balances for higher education. One child now is in high school,
OUR NEPHEW JESSE, age 19, took a gap year after high school to explore meditation and work for UPS. He’s a great kid. But he had worn out his welcome with family friends in Florida, so he decided to sleep in his car.
That was in May—and that’s when we invited him to live with us in Pennsylvania.
Jesse hasn’t had an easy life. His mother died of cancer when he was four years old.
WE’RE PROGRAMMED to believe that a four-year college degree is the only path to success. After spending several years on both a small-town school board and an economic development board, I saw the disservice that this belief is doing to many of our students.
Students and their parents are led to believe that everyone is taking a college prep curriculum in high school. There are indeed students who are actually preparing for college.
THERE’S NO SINGLE, right way to legally crack the college admissions and financial aid systems. It’s up to teenagers and their parents to do the necessary work.
Still, it helps to have a tour guide—which is what you get with The Price You Pay for College, the new book from New York Times financial journalist Ron Lieber. Lieber’s book discusses why college costs so much, digs into the allure of elite schools,
I’M CONSERVATIVE, but sometimes even I see the need to change. For instance, I belonged to a high-profile service organization for many years. They’re very proud of their tradition of raising money to give a Webster’s dictionary to each fifth grader in our city.
Let’s face it: These days, no self-respecting fifth grader is going to be caught dead with a hardcopy dictionary. Doesn’t everyone know that kids look up everything online? Traditions die hard—even when they no longer make sense.
MY TWIN DAUGHTERS just finished sorting through college offers and making their decision ahead of the May 1 acceptance deadline. With nearly 3,000 four-year colleges to choose from, how did they decide?
It wasn’t easy. The pandemic didn’t just close our local public schools. It also ended visits from universities and limited school-based college counseling. Counselors compensated with lunchtime workshops, links to webinars, and lots of robocalls and emails urging students to fill out and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
A LIFE OF FRUGALITY might mean your children graduate college debt-free, which is a major accomplishment. But what about your happy-go-lucky neighbors, who spent every dime they earned and never saved for college?
At issue here is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is the basis for the all-important expected family contribution (EFC). The whole thing can seem like one big crapshoot, as I can now attest.
The EFC may determine that your spendthrift neighbors’ kids also get to graduate debt-free.
MY TWINS ARE SENIORS in high school. That means, pandemic or no pandemic, we spent the fall applying to colleges.
Here in California, the pandemic closed public schools in March and most did not reopen for in-person teaching with the start of the current academic year. That forced parents to stand in for college counselors. The preparations high school juniors usually engage in, such as visiting colleges and taking standardized tests, didn’t occur this past spring or summer.
HELPING YOUR CHILD choose a college that’s a good fit—and that you and your teenager can afford—can be a confusing process. The right fit can be a life- and paycheck-enhancing experience. The wrong fit can be a waste of time and money.
In the past two years, my wife and I have helped our son and daughter pick colleges. Along the way, we’ve learned four lessons I wish we’d known at the start of the process.
IN HIGH SCHOOL, I worked at a local roller-skating rink to save money for college. I calculated that, if I kept working at the same rate once I was in college, I could make it through my four-year degree without taking on any student loans.
I was determined to make it work.
In my freshman year, my plan started with a budget—and that budget included this simple edict: Spend the least amount possible on everything.
COLLEGE STUDENTS who borrow graduate with an average $37,000 in loans. While many people believe loans are the only way to finance a college education, that’s simply not the case. Here are five ways to get an advanced education while minimizing debt:
1. Stay close to home. Sure, it’s fun to think about moving across the country to go to school. But staying close to home after high school comes with several benefits.
YES, EDUCATION is invaluable. But should young adults go to college to obtain a piece of paper that may mean little in the real world? Is the student debt we hear so much about really worth it? Could pushing college attendance for all be as misguided as pushing homeownership for all?
I’m not against formal education. I put four children through college. In fact, I believe parents are obligated to cover their children’s college costs,
LOOKING TO PAY for your child’s college? With costs increasing at an alarming rate, you may feel like you’re swimming upstream. Much like saving for retirement, you need to begin socking away money for college as early as possible. Each year that passes is one less year that your savings have the opportunity to grow.
Start by getting a clear picture of college costs today. You can use the Department of Education’s College Scorecard to look up the annual cost of specific colleges.
STICKER SHOCK is common when families begin the college search—with good reason. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), inflation-adjusted college costs have more than doubled over the past 30 years.
Annual tuition, fees, room and board for fulltime undergraduate students at four-year colleges averaged $26,100 in 2015-16, the last year for which NCES data is available. That average drops to $22,400—if you include junior colleges. On the other hand,
TO BORROW FROM the movie Casablanca, we are all “shocked, shocked” at the college admissions scandal recently uncovered by the FBI. We are seemingly united in condemning the extremes that these wealthy—and sometimes famous—parents went to, as they sought college admission for their children. We’re talking fraudulent inclusion on sports teams, submitting fake standardized test scores and outright bribery.
But the idea of parents gaming the system for their child’s benefit is nothing new to those of us in high school education.