Ever since your children were born you’ve been doing an impressive job holding the cash flow together. But does it feel like sometimes that you are bringing in money with a tablespoon and it is going out with a shovel? It can be so difficult to meet regular living expenses. Then throw in your mortgage, retirement goals, extra-curricular activity expenses such as club teams, cell phones, holidays, the occasional vacation and whatever you can do to provide yourself a little entertainment. Perhaps you even try to put some money into college savings. But now college tuition bills are on the horizon and that is going to throw off the balance in a big way. The shovel is about to be exchanged for a front-end loader!!!
Prior to a student’s senior year, and preferably during the freshman or sophomore year, it is important to do a thorough analysis of your college financial plan. The days of “crossing that bridge when you get to it” are gone. For most families, college bills are going to be a monumental shift in your financial landscape. Here are three pieces of advice on how best to prepare now so that college bills do not translate into insurmountable debt, delayed retirement and personal friction later on.
- Establish your budget early….and communicate it with your child. There are three major ways that most people pay for college: savings, income or borrowing. Some people may have a relative that will assist. It is important to determine how much you will feel you can stretch in those areas. You are in the majority if finances have to be considered when budgeting for college. I have always found that students are more receptive to limitations on their search if they hear about it early and it is reinforced occasionally throughout the process. Nobody likes surprises, especially teenagers.
- When you are searching for colleges, consider ones that can meet your financial goals. While an in-state public university may be a more affordable option, it is not the only one. Need-based aid and merit scholarships from private colleges are readily available and, depending on your situation, they may even end up being less expensive than a public university. Most people do not pay a college’s published price. We typically recommend that students for whom cost will play a role in their decision about which college they ultimately attend, apply to a few “financial safeties,” that is, schools with a lower sticker price, or which are likely to give them significant merit aid. Many schools are giving significant merit scholarships to attract the student body that they desire. The vast majority of colleges realize that they won’t be able to fill their dorms and classrooms with only students that can pay the full amount and have budgeted accordingly.
- Pursue the significant amount of free money that is out there with a passion. Start by learning about your eligibility for need-based aid and how colleges might discount their tuition based on your situation. Different colleges will have varying ability and willingness to give you need-based grants. All college websites offer a Net Price Calculator that will tell you how much need-based aid you can expect to get from that particular school. Some are more accurate than others. Campus Bound can also give you a projection as well. Other scholarships can also be found locally or by searching the internet. The important thing is that you get as much as you can to help you.
Campus Bound can help in these areas. We have partnered with a Certified Financial Planner to help you determine your budget in conjunction with your other goals and expenses. They can help you to make a plan so that you can be as efficient and smart about these decisions as possible. The team at Campus Bound, led by company President Gregg Cohen, are passionate about you not paying more than you have to for college. They understand the intricacies of the financial aid system and the policies and tendencies of many colleges when it comes to giving out their grants and scholarships. This initial consultation is available to you at no charge.
Contact Gregg at 781-740-4300 x101 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like assistance with this important part of the college planning process.