Any advice for parents on paying for college?

College Admissions

Our counselors answered:

Any advice for parents on paying for college?

Nina Sculler
Director College Prep

Any advice for parents on paying for college?

Look for ways to save when paying. Some schools even offer rewards Visa and Mastercards that help pay for college, then use these cards to pay for gas, groceries, everytime you would normally use a credit card. See if there are different payment plans offered, that you can afford. Have the student do a work/study program or have the student work part-time to help pay expenses. Save money on car insurance by telling the insurance company that the insured driver is away at college and will not be driving the car. Use that savings to help pay for college (this is especially cost-effective in New Jersey where car insurance is excessively expensive)

Annie Reznik
Counselor/CEO College Guidance Coach

Any advice for parents on paying for college?

Tips for Managing Ballooning College Costs: 1. Graduation in Four Years or Else Pay attention to a school’s published graduation rate when searching for a good college match. With costs over $50,000 annually at many private institutions, four year graduation must be the plan from the beginning. 2. Consider Community College In the wake of rising costs, community colleges have positioned themselves to offer students a first-rate education at a reasonable cost. If community college isn't a full-time fit, consider taking required courses at a local community college in the summer and transferring the credits back to the four year institution. 3. Find the Best Financial Fit Families often become consumed with “getting into the best school.” But, a less selective school may be more likely to provide merit aid for a highly qualified candidate. Don’t leave money out of conversations about finding the right fit. 4. Be Wary of Costly Extra Experiences Paying to work? That is what internships amounts to at many schools where credit is offered for hands-on experience. Study abroad, internships, and community service trips round out a college experience, but at what cost? 5. Set Expectation for Student Contribution A too often untapped resource for funding a college education: the student. Many students in college work part-time, but the money is for “personal expenses.” Devise an income-based student contribution plan before your student chooses a school. Students should be financially invested in their education.

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

Any advice for parents on paying for college?

The best thing you can do is save, putting away as much as possible for as long as possible. However, with the continuing rise in the cost of higher education even the most diligent savers may come up short and so you should also be sure to do all the paperwork—the government FAFSA forms and the College Board’s Profile are the primary ones—necessary to be considered for financial aid. There is more available than many people think but you cannot be eligible if you do not apply.

Todd Weaver
Senior Advisor Strategies for College, Inc.

Any advice for parents on paying for college?

Don't sacrifice your retirement for your student's college education. Last time I checked, there was not a line item in the Constitution that required a parent to pay for a student's college education! However, some families have made that a priority, even at the expense of their own financial well-being. They may end up becoming a financial burden on their children later in life. Remember, you cannot borrow for retirement, but you can borrow for college. The best advice I can give though, is that parents learn about the college payment options and expectations before their student moves on from Sophomore year in high school. You need to be prepared for what is coming up, since the cost of college is probably the second biggest expense you'll have to deal with, after your primary residence. Run some calculators at the College Board, Net Price Calculators (available at all colleges now), and even the EFC calculator through www.collegesearchgameplanmembers.com will give you a great deal of understanding about the upcoming costs.

Renee Boone
The College Advisor

Any advice for parents on paying for college?

Become familiar with the language of financial aid. These websites will help you understand the significance of COA, EFC and SAR and help you develop a time line for submitting forms. After reviewing the web pages, do not hesitate to speak with Financial Aid Officers at the colleges that most interest your child. Of course it is never too early to save for college so talk to a financial planner about 529 Plans and other savings vehicles. In addition to savings, there are parent and student loan opportunities that will help pay for college. Begin scholarship searches as early as 9th grade. Most high schools maintain binders or bulletin boards that highlight local, regional and national scholarship opportunities. Consider registering at Fastweb or other free scholarship search site, check your affiliates (employer, church, fraternal organization, union, etc.) for scholarships, read Paying for College by Greene and Greene and have your student take a look at Ben Kaplan's Scholarship Scouting Guide.

Mary Mariani

Any advice for parents on paying for college?

Stay within your means!!! So many times I have heard parents and students say that they deserve to go to the college of their choice because the student has worked so hard. If we all got what we deserved, the world would be a great place to live for everyone. But the reality after graduation is that the bill comes due. If a family is not able to afford the first choice for all four years, maybe the student should look at attending a two-year program and then transferring. From what I have seen over the last fifteen years (with both my children included), not everyone gets done in the past traditional thinking of graduation in four years. Students should still apply to their top choices and then with the family make the decision that is not only right for the student but also the family. I have seen students take out huge loans so they can immediately go "away" and come out with pretty hefty payments. I have some younger colleagues who after ten years are still paying off student loans. Try to save the student loans for the last two years and graduate school. My second bit of advice for parents is to try to be supportive of your child's career choice or major. If it is something that is not within what you think is "reasonable or appropriate", encourage him/her to take some general education classes to explore. General education is a requirement for all degrees and will give the student an opportunity to explore. So many times I've heard, "Well, my parents wanted me to be..." We all want the best for our children, but they have to live with their life choices. Try to be open to see their points of view and listen to what they are saying.

Shelley Krause
Co-Director of College Counseling Rutgers Preparatory School

Any advice for parents on paying for college?

Start planning early, and put some time in "learning the landscape." Don't assume that the "pricetag" of a school will end up being what you actually pay. If the whole family visits a college campus, deputize one adult to take a trip over to the financial aid office. Ask lots of questions, take notes, stay in touch with the people who seemed particularly helpful, and have a family conversation about how much college-related debt makes sense, given the particulars of your situation.

Carita Del Valle
Founder Academic Decisions

Any advice for parents on paying for college?

Relax and focus on the steps for financial aid, explain loans and financial responsibility to their child, focus first on their retirement and then the college loans, listen to experts in the field, utilize the workbooks available (i.e., Shrinking the Cost of College, Lynn O'Shaughnessy) and look at graduation rates. Yes it is going to be expensive but staying on task and being attentive to the variety of programs available for our kids will help in keeping costs down. Remember knowledge of power!

Eric Scheele

Any advice for parents on paying for college?

In our modern economic times it can be difficult for all families, even families well to do, being able to pay for college. Be sure you file you FAFSA on time. While there is a lot of competition, be sure that your child applies for scholarships and grants. Every penny counts. Also, financial aid packages are often negotiable. Take the time to ensure you have maximized your package before writing the check. Additional help in the way of work study, low income loans, and tax deductions can always help.

Reecy Aresty
College Admissions/Financial Aid Expert & Author Payless For College, Inc.

Any advice for parents on paying for college?

Plenty! For the past 33 years, I've been helping families send their kids to the college of their choice for less than they ever imagined! I'm also the author of, "How To Pay For College Without Going Broke." Here are just a few tidbits of advice: 1. Make sure ALL students have <$100 in their name. In the financial aid formulas students have NO APA (Asset Protection Allowance), and lose 20 cents/yr in financial aid for every dollar they have. Siblings under age 19 are sometimes included, so that's why they all need to be broke. 2. Parents do have an APA, and in a 2 parent family, with the older parent 50, the APA is $46,600. A single parent age 45 only has $14,200! Assets include: cash, checking, savings, savings bonds, Prepaid Tuition Plans, 529 Savings Plans, stocks, bonds, mutual funds & real estate other than the home. Any assets over the APA will cost the family 5.64%/yr in lost financial aid. There are legal asset repositioning strategies, but too numerous to mention here. 3. For those families who own a small business, put your kids on the payroll! Students have a $6,000 Income Protection Allowance, and the tax consequence will be infinitesimal, but the business could save $1,000's! 4. Consider a PLUS (Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students) as a way to pay your EFC and any unmet need. Payments are deferred until 6 mths after graduation, the interest cost is 7.9%, and if they qualify parents can take the Student Loan Interest deduction of up to $2,500. Check with your tax preparer.