Tag Archives: financial aid

Make your list and check it twice

As a college admissions counselor, one of the most exciting points in our process is the meeting with a student when they receive their school list. This meeting is a milestone. It means that this student has completed a series of sessions with us based on a number of assessments aimed at the best college “fit.” Fit is a magic word in the world of college admissions and is tossed around quite a bit, but it is paramount to our system.

A good college list is based on a number of factors unique to each student. First and foremost is academic rigor and performance. A student who has excelled in AP classes, knocked their standardized test out of the park and participated in a number of extracurricular activities is sure to have a list with school names all of you would recognize. But what about the” B” or even “C” student? What about a student who has done very well in school but doesn’t have AP classes on their transcript or hasn’t been able to break 1200 on their SATs (that is Math and Reading – writing is really not a factor on the SAT combined score). What will their list look like? Families must also factor in finances, the question of whether or not Division I, II or III come into play (pun intended), and other factors… there are many ingredients that go into this recipe, and it can get quite complicated.

And that is exactly what I tell my students after we wrap up our second one-to-one meeting aimed at finding fit and possible majors and careers. Many ingredients are added to the recipe, which makes each list unique. In addition, the process is dynamic, seemingly always shifting. After all, they are teenagers!   This is why college lists should be revised and refined as the student moves through her junior and into senior year. Students’ academic performance often improves (or wanes) as junior year moves along. Maybe they took the SAT or ACT for a second (or often third time) and the scores increased. This would enable them to either add more competitive schools or adjust the selectivity rating we have already assigned. And often students’ interest change – actually more often than not!

Our college lists are comprised of schools with three categories: Stretch, Probable and Safe. And they are just as they sound. A stretch school is a school we believe will be somewhat difficult for a student to gain admission to. A probable school is one we believe they will “probably” be accepted into and a safe school is, well, self explanatory. We all remember our safeties! And it is worth noting right here that we tell EVERY student that it is extremely important they like (if not LOVE) their safe schools. Why? There are two reasons. First, these are the schools that will usually offer merit scholarships. Merit awards are scholarships based on a student’s academic performance. A school sees a student that is higher than their average applicant and offers a certain amount of money that will not need to be paid back. And as we often tell students, it’s great to be wanted! We see families more and more weighing their options based on finances and having a huge scholarship is hard to turn down.

In fact, financial fit is an area that has become much more critical. Most college admissions counselors do not have this expertise, so buyer beware. I’ve said in past blogs that we will not put a family in the position of having their child fall in love with a school that we know they cannot afford. We recommend that early in your college search process, you assess your affordability by calculating your EFC or Expected Family Contribution. This is the amount that the government and colleges assess (based on a complex formula) that you can afford to contribute towards your child’s education. And it is always MUCH more than you could ever imagine. So what do you do? This becomes one of the ingredients in the “list recipe.” Not all schools give merit money. Some schools are known for generous financial aid packages and others are stingier; your child’s list will have appropriate schools to your financial situation.

Other than social fit and finances, the most important ingredient is of course, academic fit. All colleges and universities are NOT created equal! If a student wants to become a mechanical engineer, they will not see a small liberal arts college on their list. And vice versa. A student who wants to major in Art History or English may savor the small, Socratic method of learning so they probably won’t see the University of Michigan on their list.

In our work, we give numerous assessments to assure families that the schools they visit are an accurate representation of their child’s academic strengths, aptitudes, learning style, personality, and interests, all combined with their finances.

So there is much that goes into a student’s list. At The College Advisor of New York we enjoy all phases of the college search process but the ultimate reward is watching a student find a school from a list we worked hard to create.

Financing college: What you don’t know can hurt you

We see it on the faces of almost every single parent who walks through our door. It’s the look of disbelief at what just ONE year of their child’s college education will cost, much less all four. The sticker price is staggering, ranging from $90,000 to $250,000, depending on the school and a variety of other important factors. Parents feel a bit deflated and this is understandable; they are facing the second largest investment of their lives, not to mention that most people have more than one child . . . needless to say it can be overwhelming.

And that is where we come in. At The College Advisor of New York, we’ve helped thousands of families find a way to send their children to college without “losing the farm.” How? Knowledge is power and financing college is no different. The earlier in the college search process that you understand how much money you will be expected to contribute towards your child’s education, the better chance of finding a way to come up with the money.

College consultants toss the term “EFC” all the time, but what does this acronym stand for and the bigger question is, what does it mean? It stands for “Expected Family Contribution.” This is the number that schools calculate to determine how much THEY feel YOU can contribute towards your child’s education. And believe me, it’s always much more than you anticipate. The simple example goes something like this. If “X” school costs $55,000 per year and your “EFC” is $20,000 per year, then you are expected to be able to pay $20,000 of that $55,000, and College “X” will come up with some – NOT all – of the difference in financial aid. However, if your “EFC” is $70,000 in that same scenario, you would receive no aid. I am oversimplifying it here, but this is the easiest explanation.

So how do schools calculate this number? There are two ways: the Federal Methodology and the Institutional Methodology. One is the government’s formula for need based aid and the other is the calculation required by many private colleges. Various colleges require both and neither formula assures that you will receive any aid; they just calculate your EFC to determine your financial need. Confused? You’re not alone.

There are so many factors that go into determining this magic number, but not many professionals out there that can help you A.) calculate it and B.) know what to do once you have it. One of the first questions we ask of our new clients is “do you have a financial advisor?” Many of them do, but most financial advisors and accountants do NOT understand the nuances of the college financial world (and they would admit that themselves). Just as we tell families not to rely on their English teacher to advise them on their college application essay, here too is a word to the wise: Seek out a college admissions counselor who knows the financial aid process. And because my blog always contains one shameless plug, here it is . . . The College Advisor of New York is the only college consulting firm that incorporates the financial aid process into the college search process. Dr. Dean Skarlis is the “go to” professional for financial advisors. He answers their college planning questions that so often arise with their clients. He also runs seminars and trainings specifically aimed at educating financial professionals on how to plan so that families can keep more of their hard earned money. He is one of the few people out there with this expertise.

What exactly does this mean to our clients? It means our parents have the peace of mind that on May 1 of their child’s senior year, they will not be staring at a college education they can’t afford. It means that they won’t have just one; they will have several college options to choose from. We help our families weigh whether it is wise to spend more money at the brand name school or less (often MUCH less) at the less well known university where they received a large award. And the game is changing here too, because we are finding that even our families with the ability to truly afford those expensive schools, are choosing the school that gave them aid in one form or another.

And that brings me to one more point. All financial aid is not created equal. Many of our families will never see any “need” based aid. But they don’t have to despair. We help them to seek out schools where their student will stand out, and thus receive merit scholarships. The caveat here is that all schools do not offer merit aid; another reason not to rely on a financial planner but to instead turn to a college admissions consultant who knows the big picture. The stakes are very high, and the road can be confusing. As I’ve said in past blogs, our process seeks a fit in three areas; academic and social for the student and financial for the family. By working with us, you know right from the start what you can afford. More importantly we help you strategize about how to cut your costs, and come up with the money to pay for school. That is truly peace of mind and one that will never leave you telling your child “we just can’t afford that school.”

Don’t Miss Dr. Dean Skarlis Speak on College Planning

The Society of Financial Service Professionals (SFSP) of ENY is hosting an evening with Dr. Dean Skarlis, of The College Advisor of New York, in which he will provide his insights on the college selection process. The event is open to all SFSP members and their clients and is a great opportunity for Chapter Members to provide extra benefits to those clients who may have children approaching college age.

Light refreshments will be served; hope to see you there!

Wednesday, January 14th
6:00 – 7:30 P.M.
Italian American Community Center
Dante Room
$20 for Members & Client Guests
$35 for Non-Members

Dr. Dean Skarlis, President of The College Advisor of New York

Dr. Skarlis will outline the steps you and your clients need to find the best fit college. Some of the topics he will cover are:

  • The top 5 factors colleges look for in applicants
  • The financial aid process
  • Proven strategies to reduce college costs
  • Rankings/schmankings: understanding why “fit” is critical
  • SAT/ACT strategy and the NEW SAT
  • How to make the most of college visits
  • The importance of the essay

For more information on Dr. Dean Skarlis, please visit the College Advisor of New York website.

For further questions regarding this event, contact Melissa Shriver at ENYChapExec@gmail.com.

More about Dr. Dean Skarlis

Dr. Skarlis is the President and founder of The College Advisor of New York. Dean has more than 23 years of experience in higher education, including 6 years as a Consultant at American College Testing (ACT) and 9 years as an administrator at Duquesne University and the University of Pittsburgh. A passionate student advocate, Dean has taught at the graduate and undergraduate levels, and has served as a Senior Lecturer at Tiffin University. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from Allegheny College, an M.A. in Psychology from Duquesne University, and a Doctorate in Educational Policy and Administration from the University of Pittsburgh. Dean also earned a certificate from the Harvard University Institute on College Admissions. His research has focused on quality teaching and learning, retention, and program design at four-year colleges. He is a member of the National Association of College Admissions Counseling and the Independent Educational Consultants Association.
Dr. Skarlis has conducted presentations about college admissions for thousands of students, parents, faculty, and administrators at more than 220 colleges, universities, and high schools across the United States. He has also been a featured speaker and trainer for hundreds of families, financial planners and Certified Public Accountants on the intricacies of college financial aid and scholarships. Nationally, he has appeared on ABC World News and has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal twice, and most recently. Locally, he has been a featured guest and member of the “Answers Team” on CBS 6 WRGB TV, WTEN TV, Fox 23 News, and the YNN – Channel 9 “Family Living” segment which is broadcast across upstate New York. He has been quoted in several local and national publications including an article in The Washington Post entitled, “The Dirty Little Secrets of College Admissions,” The New York Post, The Times Union, The Associated Press, TheStreet.Com, and Capital Region Living Magazine, as well as The Portable Guidance Counselor, a book about the college admissions process published by The Princeton Review in 2010. Dean also serves on the Board of Directors of the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce and the East Greenbush-Castleton Youth Baseball League. In his spare time he coaches Little League Baseball and Pop Warner Football in the community of East Greenbush, NY.

The College Advisor of New York
18 Corporate Woods Boulevard
Albany, NY 12211
(518) 512-3021

College Success, with a little help from us

By Deb Coco

I don’t believe we have posted one blog without stating that the landscape of college admissions is changing.  At our staff meeting last month, we had a round table discussion to wrap up the 2014 admissions season.  We all put our two cents in and we all have different experiences to discuss based on the students we worked with, but the one prevailing theme was this . . .all bets are now off.  What do we mean?  As one counselor stated  “I used to be able to predict with much more accuracy which students would be accepted to which schools; now I cannot do that. I can’t guarantee a family that their student will absolutely get in when they ask me point blank.”

The structure of acceptances has changed dramatically.  Now, more than ever, we believe that finding the right college admissions assistance is imperative.  At the College Advisor of New York, we tell families in our first meeting that we are committed to finding the “right fit” and we work extremely hard to achieve that.  Our students complete assessments and questionnaires with pointed and thought provoking questions that get to the bottom of who they are as a student and lifelong learner.  We all learn differently and what works for one student (a small class with individual instruction vs. a large lecture hall – college vs. university? ) does not work for another.  Our process whittles down all the options so that the campuses our families visit are accurate representations of where we feel kids will flourish.  This is a huge time and money saver because let’s face it – everything about college is expensive, including visiting them!

It is our belief, and our success rate bears this out, that by engaging in our process,  admissions success will improve dramatically.  The national average for admissions is 64%; at the College Advisor of New York, we can boast a 91% acceptance rate.  Our graduation rate is just as impressive; the national average lies around 52% and ours is 88%.  So although many bets are off, working with us as your college consultant will greatly increase your student’s ability to get admitted and graduate from college.

Our year end client surveys are beginning to come back to us, and we are thrilled by the difference we have made for our families.  We “helped make the process manageable”; “you challenged us to look at schools we might not have known about with wonderful results”; “you saved us time and money”; “we got a note in our daughter’s acceptance stating her essay was top notch!”  . . . and the list goes on.  As counselors, we can’t ask for more.  It is our goal to not only help our clients through this process but our hope is that they actually enjoy it.  Our students are asked to dig a little more deeply and explore more options than the average high school student.  Do they complain?  Sometimes .  Does it pay off?  Ask about our transfer rate.   That is our low statistic.

So, the take away from the staff meeting was that we can’t promise our families that we can get their child into the school of their choice.  Don’t trust a counselor who does. However, we can GREATLY increase your chances and, in the process, add some self discovery and give you peace of mind.  That we can guarantee.

Parenting Your Child Through The College Admissions Process

We’ve worked with thousands of students and parents to help them navigate the often stressful college admissions process, and over the years, I realized that my job not only involves coaching students, but much of it has evolved to coach parents on this very different journey.  Below, I’ve outlined the top 5 things you can do to effectively parent your child during this challenging time.

1.  Realize It’s Not About You:  No matter how much your children may be like you, they need to make their own observations and decisions.  You are NOT applying to college.  They are.  This is not your chance to go back and “get into” Harvard.  Distancing yourself from the emotions of the process allows you to support your child, rather than add to their stress.   This is not a high school playoff game or a state final soccer match.  It is a rite of passage during which your child will begin to establish their independence,   You need to be a stabilizing “grounding cord” for your child.

2.  Understand your grief – not theirs.  You may not consciously realize it, but you may be sad that your child will soon be leaving home…for good.  This could cause you to feel depressed or angry.  Some parents lash out at their student or spouse.  Think about it.  Feel it, talk to a counselor or member of the clergy.  Then, get over it.  Instead of feeling sad, get ready to turn your child’s bedroom into a Jacuzzi room!

3.  Understand your affordability EARLY in the process.   Will you qualify for financial aid?  If so, will the college meet all or only some of your need?  Will your child qualify for merit scholarships?  And at which schools?  We help our families plan for these questions ever day.  Once you have a rough number in your head, it’s incumbent upon you to figure out how you’ll come up with the money.  If you cannot, then talk to your child about other options.  The number 1 reason students drop out of college is because they cannot afford it.  That’s why we talk about “fit” being academic, social and financial…This is YOUR job and ONLY your job.

4.  Stay in the car, but don’t drive.  This may be your toughest challenge.  You need to be involved in every step of the process, except taking the SAT, doing your child’s applications, and writing the essay, but your child needs to be the driver.  This can get tricky, so be careful.  Consider hiring an experienced educational consultant.  When they tell your child to write her essay, she’s more likely to do it than if you do.  You will be spending lots of money, so you would do a disservice if you weren’t involved, but your child, not you, needs to own the process.

5.  Remember that this is a process, not a decision.  If you engage in a well informed, well researched, logical and systematic college search, the decision will follow the process.  In fact, by April of the senior year, the decision will be easy.  Until then, there will be a lot of uncertainty and that’s ok.  Let the process unfold on its own, and don’t pressure your child for a decision.  The trips to visit colleges can be a lot of fun.  They may be the last time you spend quality time with your child until they become an adult.  Use this time to talk to your student about life, fun stuff, anything at all.  Cherish these times, and try to have fun, but don’t expect them to decide where they’re going as soon as you get in the car after a campus tour…They will likely not know until the Spring of their Senior year.

In the end, this is your child’s process, not yours, but some kids may not be ready to fully engage in it, so tread carefully, and assess where you and your child are at each step…Good luck!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Paying Less For College When You Don’t Qualify For Financial Aid

Only 47% of all undergraduate college students received federal financial aid in 2008.  So how did the rest pay the $200,000 bill at private colleges and the $70,000 at in-state public schools?   The answer is that most of them did not pay the sticker price at their college of choice.  Below I’ve identified 3 ways you can cut the cost of college even if you don’t qualify for financial aid.

1.  Go To A School You’ve Never Heard Of – Learn how to find, visit, apply to and attend a college at which you’re an appealing applicant.  Typically, these are schools that are not brand names.  By that, I don’t mean Harvard, Yale, and the rest of the Ivies, although those certainly qualify.  Instead, I mean schools like Villanova, Boston College, Amherst, Northwestern, and many others of similar ilk.  Why?  By virtue of their brand names, and the resulting public awareness, these schools are incredibly popular, which makes them receive more applications, be more selective, and therefore better able to shape their enrollment with strong academic students and diverse applicants of all types.  By attending a good college with a lesser name brand – what I call “finding the right fit” – you inherently increase your appeal as a candidate, thereby increasing your scholarship chances.  An experienced college admissions consultant can help you identify such schools, but the point is:  Find schools you’ve never heard of, and if they seem to be a good match, apply to them.

2.  Become an R.A. – Once you’re enrolled in your no-name school, find out what it takes to become a Resident Advisor.  Most colleges pay either your room and board, or a provide a stipend.  Not only will you cut your costs by $5,000 – $12,000 per year, you’ll learn a lot about leadership and interpersonal skills, not to mention the fact that you’ll enhance your post college resume.

3.  Work Hard During The Summers – Most college students are out of school by early May.  This means they get a jump on all of the high schoolers who are searching for similar summer jobs.  If they work every day for 3 months every summer, they should be able to earn and save several thousand dollars each year for spending money, books, and maybe even a small portion of tuition.  And every little bit helps!

Approaching college tuition strategically, can shave precious dollars off the most expensive investment many families will ever make.





Three Ways to Cut The Cost of College

With the cost of college reaching $60,000/year at some schools next year, finances are on every parent’s mind.  To reduce what you pay for college, here are three factors to consider:

1. Scholarships for B students: Even if your child is not an A student, he or she can get scholarships. The trick is to figure out which colleges want your child. Maybe they want or need athletes (even Division 3).  Perhaps they’re looking for musicians, or a pep band participant. With a sport such as cross country, go to the athletics page on the school’s website and compare your child’s performance to posted statistics. It gets more difficult with a sport like baseball, but that’s where a coach can help you understand which schools might need you. Know who wants your child in terms of academics by looking at the college’s average grades and understanding where your child fits in. Some schools offer tuition discounting to try to entice certain students to enroll.

2. Understand early whether you’ll qualify for need-based financial aid, and get a sense for how much. By early, I mean when your child is a high school sophomore. As long as you understand affordability early in the process, you will know what the bill will be and can possibly restrict the list of schools to a certain segment. Go to collegeboard.com to find a calculator. Search under “college planning” and then “pay for college.”  Keep in mind that different schools calculate your ability to pay differently.  For example, some colleges assess your net home equity in their formula, and others do not.  Some schools provide a larger allowance for certain assets, and others do not.  If you take time to examine this issue early enough, you can implement strategies to qualify for more financial aid. 

3. There are hidden gems. Kiplinger, a publisher of business forecasts and personal finance advice, compiles a list of best college values. One is SUNY Geneseo, another is Binghamton.  Siena can be a great value for the right student.  And Hartwick College offers a three-year degree program, which can cut the cost of college by 25 percent.  But there are hundreds of other gems out there that you probably have never heard of.  Don’t presume that a public college will be your least expensive option.  This is often not the case.  Consider consulting with a college advisor to help you identify which schools will be a good fit for your child.

College Decisions: The Right College At The Right Price

It’s that time of year again.  By Tuesday, May 1st, all college bound high school seniors must submit their deposit to the college of their choice.  For some it’s a difficult time; for others, it’s a time of joy, but for all it’s the beginning of a new chapter.

For the parents of this year’s high school sophomores and juniors, it’s instructive to learn from others’ mistakes.  To illustrate this point, consider a family we advised this year.  Let’s call them the Joneses.  They let their child, Jenny, handle most of the college search.  They chose only to work with a college advisor at the end of the process – for help on the applications and essays.  They figured their daughter could select the best school for her.  Jenny was a bright student who had a 94 average and a 2010 combined SAT score (1280 – Reading and Math).  She applied to only 5 colleges, four of which were stretch schools.  The other was a safe, Providence College.  She was accepted in January to Providence.  This proved to be very trying for her, because she wasn’t thrilled with the choice, but at least she knew she was admitted to one college.  On the plus side, she did receive a scholarship of $8,000/year.  She didn’t hear from any of her stretch schools until April 1st.  That was 3 months of waiting and hoping,  When she did finally get her letters, she was admitted to only one, Wake Forest University, and was not admitted to Boston College, New York University, and Colgate.

This scenario posed a dilemma for Jenny Jones.  She had visited Wake Forest once last April.  At the time, she loved it.  But a year in the life of a teenager is a long time, and by the following April she realized that North Carolina was a little far for her and her parents.  As for Providence, it was really just a placeholder in her mind.  Everyone told her she needed a safe school, so she found one and didn’t think much of it.  She had visited Providence the summer of her junior year, and while she liked it, the major she ultimately decided on – 8 months later – was not offered there.

The second problem was even bigger:  cost.  This family, like most of the clients we work with, did not qualify for need based financial aid, yet they could not really afford the $58,260/year, or more than $230,000 over four years at Wake Forest.   Providence proved to be not much less expensive at $55,600, minus the $8,000/year scholarship.  This would total $47,600/year or just under $200,000 over 4 years.  These numbers are not typos.  College really is that expensive.

In the end, Jenny chose Providence due to proximity to home and price.  This was not a choice, however, she was pleased about.  Nor were her parents.  They had saved less than $50,000, so they were faced with taking out more than $150,000 in loans.  This is a situation I would advise against.

So, the bottom line for Jenny was:  She didn’t have enough viable options because her college search was not systematic, strategic, and well informed.  A professional, ethical college advisor would have helped the family understand fit, expand the student’s options, and would have prepared Jenny more for admission to her stretch schools.  They would have also advised the family about safe and probable schools, so that they had options at the end of the process.  Some advisors, like The College Advisor of New York, also help students maximize scholarship and financial aid opportunities as well, thus lowering the net cost.

Some families can navigate the college admissions process on their own, others choose to hire an advisor.  Chances are, a college counselor can help save you time, angst, and money, while guiding your child to a college that’s a great fit for them, socially, academically, and financially.   I urge you to consider hiring a college counselor for your child’s college search.

Rising Student Loan Debt Vs. Falling Salaries

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article about the problem of student loan debt.  The graphic below sums up the issue in a powerful way.  As student loan debt has increased dramatically over the past decade, salaries of young adults have also fallen.  I was recently interviewed about this issue by a local TV News station.  After the camera was turned off, the reported explained that she had $96,000 in student loan debt.  She is 30 years old and her monthly student loan payment is higher than my mortgage payment.  This is clearly a significant and growing problem.   As the cost of college has increased exponentially over the past twenty years – by more than double the rate of inflation – it takes more of a family’s income to pay for college than ever before.  So naturally, parents and students turn to loans.  Since many parents have run out of home equity on which to draw, they pass the loan burden on to their children.

While this may seem like an intractable problem, there is a solution, one which many families won’t enjoy reading.  Stop overpaying for college!  In the same way that debt counselors tell consumers to cut up their credit cards, I advise my clients to stop taking on unecessary debt.  I recently told a client with significant debt issues not to send their son to his number 1 college choice as it was the most expensive option of the 8 schools to which he was admitted.  This family was considering taking out $160,000 in loans to pay for college, when they could have opted for their cheapest option at a total cost of about $68,000 over 4 years.  By the way, lest you think that public universities are always the lowest price option, that was not the case in this instance.  The first school mentioned above was a public university.  The second, lower priced option was a private, liberal arts college!

The key is to strategically and systematically search for colleges at which your child will be an appealing applicant.  This means different things to different colleges.  Some schools want and need world class athletes; others seek strong academicians.  Still others are seeking “geographic diversity,” and the list goes on.  The more colleges value the applicant, the better the aid and scholarship packages will be.

See the graphic below, and then avoid that situation at all costs!

The Financial Crisis And Paying For College

With family investments and home values battered by the recent financial crisis, colleges and universities around the nation are seeing an increase in students seeking financial aid and are bracing for even more.

A panoramic picture of the Angell Center court...

A panoramic picture of the Angell Center courtyard at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the same time, higher education’s ability to meet that extra need is in question because the value of most college endowments has dropped as well.  Nationwide, applications for financial aid jumped 16% last fall compared to the previous year.  Some colleges may need to cut back on other spending to fund extra scholarships.  Others are increasing grants and boosting staffing to help students find loans if their families’ college savings accounts have been hit by Wall Street losses or if they can no longer borrow against their homes.

Before taking steps to reduce financial aid, schools will probably first postpone new construction and stop hiring new faculty. BostonUniversity, for example, announced a construction and hiring freeze, and other schools may follow suit if the situation does not improve.

In recent years, universities with significant endowments have faced pressure from Congress to spend more of the investment returns on scholarships or risk jeopardizing their tax-exempt status.

Another concern is that some financially stressed families may push current high school seniors to apply only to public institutions, like the SUNY (State University of New York) system.  I have seen this occur with some of our affluent clients.  Despite being able to afford it, they simply cannot justify spending almost three times the money for a selective private college.  This has resulted in the SUNY schools, and many out of state publics, becoming highly selective.  So parents hoping to send their children to what used to be a “safe” SUNY school, in terms of selectivity, may not have that option.  They will still have to pay the going rate for a private college, which can run close to $60,000/year.

The result:  More loans, at a time when concerns persist about loan availability if the banking system remains unstable.  In addition, many experts are now warning that the student loan bubble will be the next debt crisis in the United States.  Average student loan debt has increased to close to $30,000 and many students graduate with more than $50,000 which makes it much harder to start out in their 20s.

At Northeastern University in Boston, about 10% more students than last year have asked for additional midyear aid.  Many parents are asking “what if” questions about whether reduced investment values could make them eligible for more aid.  So far, Northeastern has been able to meet all legitimate needs.

So what’s the best course of action for prudent parents and students?  First, continue to save early, and save often.  Second, make sure you begin the college search in 10th grade, or 11th grade at the latest.  There are many strategies available to reduce a family’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC), but this must be done before the middle of a student’s junior year.  Third, in most cases, saving should be done in the parents’ name.  Fourth, depending on the college that students select, home equity or business assets may be included in the financial aid formula.  Make sure you understand how the equity in your home or business will affect the college’s estimate of your ability to pay.  Finally, consider contacting the College Advisor of New York where we specialize in finding best fit colleges socially, academically, and financially for families of all incomes.

Enhanced by Zemanta