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.
I’VE LIVED IN OREGON most of my life. When I was growing up, agriculture, logging and fishing were the state’s dominant industries. In the 1970s and 1980s, the economy began transitioning from one based on natural resources to one rooted in technology, travel and manufacturing. A few decades ago, companies like Weyerhaeuser and Georgia-Pacific were among the state’s leading employers. These days, Intel is the largest, keeping more than 20,000 Oregonians gainfully employed.
But it isn’t just Oregon’s private sector that’s seen plenty of change.
WE ARE A NATION obsessed with youth sports. Time magazine says it’s a $15 billion-a-year industry. As many as 60 million kids participate.
Sports are good for kids for all kinds of reasons: promoting exercise and a healthy lifestyle, enhancing team work and relationships, providing structure, instilling confidence to overcome challenges and delivering the joy of playing.
During our children’s sports journeys, we parents are often led to believe that our little sports stars are on the path to the holy grail—a full athletic college scholarship.
SEVERAL MILLION households every year deal with a crucial decision involving their teenage children. Will their kids head to college, enter the labor force, join the military or perhaps do something different entirely? Often, this involves weighing the costs and benefits of a college education vs. the immediate income from getting a job.
About two-thirds of high school graduates end up being college freshmen. The remaining third defer or never go to college, but they can still end up earning above-average incomes.
FOR MORE THAN 20 years, I’ve been the biology department manager at a small, liberal arts college located in the Pacific Northwest. My job is unique because I interact, on a daily basis, not only with students, staff and faculty at the college, but also with various building maintenance personnel, sales reps and instrument-repair folks who are critical to the successful operation of the department.
For me, it’s an interesting study in contrast.
I WAS 45 YEARS old in 1988. That year, my oldest child started college and, the next year, my second son. Two years later, it was my daughter’s turn. The year after, my youngest went off to college. I had at least one child in college for 10 years in a row.
I bet you think this is a story of college loans and other debt. Nope, it’s about retirement planning. After going into major debt and using all my assets,
ARE YOU NERVOUS about college costs? You should be. According to the College Board, the average cost to attend a public four-year university as an in-state student in 2017-18 was $20,770. Private four-year universities averaged a whopping $46,950. Ouch.
Lucky for you, the system can be beat. Here are four great ways to cut college costs:
1. Scholarships and Grants. Thousands of dollars in scholarships and grants are available—but you have to apply.