College financing :Get the facts
How in the world are we going to pay for it?
This is a sentiment expressed by more and more parents as they contemplate the staggering costs of sending their kids to college. Tuition, room and board, meal plans, fees, books and other costs associated with higher education are soaring due to severe budget cuts at the federal, state and even institutional levels. Throw into the mix an uncertain economy, widespread job loss and a stock market slump, and middle-income and even upper-middle income families are frightened.
But Vincent Waterhouse, president of GetCollege.Com, Inc., says that families can save up to 50 percent or more on the total cost of attendance if they are armed with the right information. There is a lot of myth and misinformation out there that can cause families to make bad financial decisions, he says.
Waterhouse, who advises families with college-bound children, states that middle-income Americans, the backbone of America, have been especially hard-hit when it comes to paying for college. With todays economy, 401(k) plans down, the stock market tanking, and the total cost of attendance at a college or university increasing three times faster than the rate of inflation, middle-income and upper-middle income families are experiencing what is known as financial meltdown, he explains.
Compounding the problem is the kind of advice they are getting. These families with college-bound students are about to make the biggest investment they will ever make concerning their childs future, and they make their decisions based on a 15-minute conversation with a 50-something guidance counselor named Mildred, who has had limited if any training in the complexities of higher education financing, bemoans Waterhouse.
Making matters worse is the antiquated federal methodology used for determining who is eligible for assistance. Based on formulas designed in 1965, the government estimates that a family of five with one child in college can live on $23,000 a year. Thats your electrical bill in L.A.! says Waterhouse.
There is a lot that the federal government and the institutions themselves dont want the public to know, says Waterhouse. The following are five of the most pervasive myths that are working against families with college-bound kids:
Myth 1 -- Only Low-income Families Get Financial Assistance
Financial assistance in the real world of higher education is given to everyone. Parents must understand what the true definition of need-based and need-blind means. To reduce the total cost of attendance at both public and private institutions, families must understand the practices and principles of tuition reduction, tuition overrides, ward of the court, and retention grants. How is the average American family supposed to figure out what sort of financial aid package is right for them? It takes a lot of knowledge and planning to figure out the best way to acquire college financing.
Myth 2 -- There are Billions of Dollars in Scholarships
Of the so-called billions in scholarship funding only about five percent ever get awarded, says Waterhouse. We call these carpal tunnel scholarships because you must write out 50 to 60 applications in hopes of getting a windfall of $1,000. Now if you waive that $1,000 in front of a financial aid officer, you could lose up to $3,000 in aid dollars that the institution was already going to give you. In fact, Waterhouse says that colleges are very reluctant to lose good, academically minded students. They will find the dollars to help them stay in school if they need financial assistance. All schools have their own grant funds, they can even tap into their own piggy-bank of endowment funds if need be. Princeton University has been helping middle-income and upper-middle-income students with their endowment funds for years, he adds.
Myth 3 -- Loans Are the Best Way to Pay for College
When a student graduates from college with thousands of dollars in loan debt how is he or she going get a decent apartment, a car that really runs and even entertain the thought of having a family? asks Waterhouse. Our children are buried in debt before they have a realistic understanding of what debt really is. Waterhouse recommends that families avoid large loans at all costs and do a financial self-evaluation of all their options for financial assistance while their child is in their junior year of high school.
Myth 4 -- You Must Have a Very High GPA to Get Into an Ivy League College
Although first-tier colleges and universities court students who have exceptional grades, they look at a variety of factors when making admission decisions. In todays world, the high school population is more academically armed and your better schools understand this, so they now are looking for a more angular student to keep the balance in their student selection. Remember, colleges admit human beings, not numbers, cautions Waterhouse.
Myth 5 -- Families Shouldnt Seek Help with Educational Firms That Charge a Fee
Financing a college education has become more complex than ever in recent years. Americans seek the services of professionals in the fields of law, medicine, accounting, real estate, financial planning and a host of other services, says Waterhouse. Higher education is no different. The uneducated consumer needs help understanding the complexities of the higher education market.
GetCollege.Com, Inc. provides services for families with college-bound kids that cover everything from completing the FAFSA form, CSS Profile, the admissions application, college selection, and obtaining adequate financial aid. All services are tailored to each students abilities and their familys needs. Unique to this firm is that we stay with the family and student for the entire four to five year enrollment, adds Waterhouse.
I want to transform educational needs into educational solutions, emphasizes Waterhouse. I cant stand to see money become a barrier in developing our future. I do not want to see anything stop a child from getting a college