By Patrick Lorenzo
I have two young boys, one in first grade approaching seven and a fast
walking toddler rounding the corner towards fifteen months. Maybe, it is
due to the fact I work in admissions that the growing cost of College is
top of mind, however, every year I am stunned when I have a discussion with
a family who did not realize the scope of undertaking the task of paying
for College. As a result, ask for more money, aid, and assistance.
I feel for those who have taken measures to both save and to adjust their
lifestyles and still fall short in supplementing their child’s dream of
going to College. It is one of the toughest parts of the job because I
often find myself in counseling mode. All is not lost if you are determined
and within reason have the financial resources (talk to the financial aid
office to discuss what’s feasible) to make it work.
If you have been admitted and eagerly awaiting to hear about your financial
aid award letters this is a good time to be proactive about the big
picture. You might be in wait and see mode, however, when it comes to
financing your education, hopefully, you have begun to think about the
ramifications of the true cost of attending college.
Even if you’ve been saving and preparing for this moment, there are likely
items you might want to consider as a family to be sure you are dancing to
the same beat. Parents, think about your vacation plans, future purchasing
of vehicles, and any other expenses that can be postponed.
Here are three big things to ponder:
1) Taking out loans – Yes, you are going to have to borrow money to make
this work. Every year I always talk with a few families who are determined
to avoid loans like a plague. It is highly unlikely this approach is going
to be a viable one. We take out loans to buy homes and to purchase
automobiles, right? Understand loans for higher education are considered
worthy investments and great for your credit score too. What families need
to discuss is how much they want to borrow. Depending on the source you
can expect students to be somewhere between fifteen and twenty thousand
dollars in debt after graduation. Sometimes, families may take a parent
loan (e.g. PLUS loan) as a means to cover the expected family contribution
(EFC). Have a conversation about this topic before the financial aid award
letter arrives. It will go a long way in mapping out your finance plan.
2) To work or not to work – Another way to manage expenses is to work
while in college. Studies have shown students who do work part time,
typically, around eight to twelve hours a week, tend to perform better than
those who do not work at all. Having a part time job to help cover the
cost of books and/or off campus adventures is a wonderful introduction to
young adult responsibility. Whether a student has worked before or not,
there is no better instructor on how to manage your budget than having a
personal income. Some students may receive a work study award on their
financial aid letter which can assist you in finding a convenient job on
campus due to the benefits it provides to the hiring department. Even if
you do not receive the award you can always inquire with the financial aid
office if you can be reconsidered. Even if that does not work, rest
assured you can still find a job. Reach out to the Career Center for
information on how to apply for on campus jobs, to develop a cover letter,
and to create a resume.
3) Transfer option – Sometimes the cost to attend a four year college right
out of high school is not feasible due to cost. Understand the community
college option is a sound way to pursue your higher educational goals.
Depending on where you prefer to attend you might find the community
college route a better way to both complete your lower division
requirements and to save money. There also might be the added incentive to
complete an Associates degree. Consider all your local community college
options and look into their articulation agreements. Follow up with the
four year colleges too to find out where most of their transfer students
come from to gain additional insight. Also, ask if they have merit based
scholarships for transfer students. The transfer option is not a remedial
path. It is a viable road to attaining a four year college degree.
Paying for college is a family endeavor. It will not only affect the child
going to College. Every financial decision moving forward must consider
it’s overall impact. Talk now and often. Manage your expectations and
determine what’s realistic. You didn’t find out yesterday your child wanted
to go to College. The sooner, the better because the baby is all grown up
and College is around the corner.
(About the Author: #ThickEnvelope is a monthly column that can be read exclusively on AsAmNews. Patrick Gabriel Lorenzo is Associate Director of Admissions at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, CA and a graduate of both a University of California campus and a regional private college. He has nearly 15 years of experience in higher education spanning public and private institutions. He is a firm believer in access, against the notion of college acceptances being a prize to be won, and promotes the idea of searching colleges from the inside out. Patrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for further questions.)
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