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.
FOR THREE-QUARTERS of students, loans have become a standard part of the college experience. Scholarships, grants and parental funding may be preferable. But the reality is, many families will need student loans to pay college expenses.
Navigating this world can be baffling. There are many different kinds of loans and repayment programs, and choosing the right option is important. After all, you’ll be living with your choices for 10 years or more.
Federal student loans are backed by the federal government and offered through the Department of Education.
I JUST INVESTED $1,000 on behalf of a grandchild who may never be born. This reflected two of my enduring preoccupations: figuring out the best way to use my limited wealth for my family’s benefit—and getting an early start, with an eye to squeezing maximum advantage from investment compounding.
To those ends, when I visited my daughter in Philadelphia last weekend, I helped her open a 529 college savings plan. Hannah humored her father by committing to invest $25 automatically every month.
WORKING AT a college is a bit like being in a time warp. Every year, I get older, but the students don’t. The 20-somethings I deal with make me realize just how much times have changed since I attended college.
Tuition. When I was a college student in the 1980s, 529 plans didn’t exist. Of course, tuition costs were also much lower, so there wasn’t as much need for a college savings plan.
GOT COLLEGE-BOUND kids? Make sure you and your children are on the right track financially—with these 10 questions:
Can you afford to help your kids with college costs? It’s important to talk to your teenagers early on about how much financial assistance you can offer—and that’s doubly true if they’ll need to shoulder much or all of the cost.
Will your family receive needs-based financial aid? Use the EFC calculator at CollegeBoard.org to figure out how much aid you might get.
SHORTLY BEFORE MY first child was born some two decades ago, I read a newspaper column urging parents to begin saving for college early in their children’s lives. Today, my son is not far from getting his bachelor’s degree in engineering, debt-free and (fingers crossed) with a bit in the bank for his master’s degree. My daughter starts college this fall and is on track for the same outcome.
I feel like we’ve been a real life middle-class experiment,