Listen Up Parents Of Young Children, It’s Time To Talk About That Dreaded C Word: College

usnews.com

usnews.com

Wait, wait, do not walk away.  Just hear me out.

I know this is not a fun topic and I am not trying to be a Debby Downer, but if you have young kids and you have not started saving for their college years, continue reading.  I promise I will not judge you.

{Disclaimer: I am not a financial planner.  Although I did work in banking for over 10 years and I know a little something about money, what makes me an ‘expert’ in this field is the fact that I am a mom of two college age kids who wishes she had saved way more money when they were younger.}

You still with me?

We can all agree that cost of attending college is absolutely absurd and that something has to change, yesterday.  But you cannot bank on it changing by the time your little one is college-bound. Here are the current and projected costs of attending college:

Projected 4-Year Tuition and Fees –

* Private College Today (Enrolling 2015) = $134,600.

* Private College in 18 years (Enrolling 2033) = $323,900

* Public/University Today (in-state resident) = $39,400.

* Public/University in 18 years = $94,800

* 2 Years Community College & 2 Years Private College Today = $77,400.

* 2 Years Community College & 2 Years Private College in 18 years = $186,400  

(source: savingforcollege.com)

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I know, I know.  This is extremely depressing to see but stay with me. 

Right off the bat, let’s clear up some common misconceptions out there about affording college.

College Funding Misconceptions

1. “That’s what financial aid is for!  We are not rich so we will definitely qualify for aid.”

{Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha(slaps knee)hahahahahahahahahahaha}

2.  “We can’t do anything about it now, we will find the money when the time comes.”

{BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA(snort)BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH}

3.  “Grandma and Grandpa will give us the money.”

{HOHOHOHOHOHOHO(even Santa is laughing)HOHOHOHOHOHOHOHO}

I had to laugh (and cry) when I discovered how wrong I was and wished I had been better informed.

Although these common misconceptions may actually work out for some parents, trust me when I tell you that it is a small percentage of people.  Reality is typically not that rosy and most of us cannot afford to think this way.

Let’s discuss the first misconception, Financial Aid. “Federal Student Aid provides more than $150 billion in grants(money that does not have to be repaid), loans, and work-study funds each year.” (www.ed.gov/blog).  To qualify for aid, there are several factors that are taken under account including student and parent income and assets, household size, and the number of children in college.

As a ‘middle class’ family with two children, we applied for aid for our son when the time came.  Although he qualified for subsidized and unsubsidized loans (I don’t consider loans aid since they need to be paid back) and work-study, the fact that we only had one child going to college and that we exceeded the income qualification (barely), we did not receive much real aid.  This only reinforced our belief that, once again, that the middle class get screwed.  Sigh.

Once our daughter joined the college pool two years later, we were awarded more aid (still not enough to cover the astronomical tuition costs), but this time from her college.  This aid will end as she enters her junior year because my son will have graduated and we will only have one child in college (this is where having multiples can have financial benefits).  What they don’t take into account is that just because your child is no longer attending college does not mean that you are done paying his college costs.

The lesson being that you should not expect or rely on federal aid to cover your costs. Many colleges will offer aid for the first year to lure students in, but will not offer that aid in subsequent years.  In addition, merit aid (based on achievement) is not offered as widely as it should be.

Having said all the above, it is recommended that everyone apply for Financial Aid.  The application process although tedious, is free and worth doing in the event that you qualify for any amount of aid.  For more information about Financial Aid go to: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/prepare-for-college or https://fafsa.ed.gov.

The second misconception is that if you are financially strapped now, you will have plenty of time to ‘deal’ with college costs later.  Look, most of all are strapped and living paycheck to paycheck, but there is no way you will catch up later unless you expect to get a substantial raise or can accurately project a future significant rise in income.  

Starting the savings process early is the first step, funding it on a regular basis is key.  

We opted for a 529 plan for our kids.  A 529 Plan is an education savings plan operated by a state or educational institution designed to help families set aside funds for future college costs. It is named after Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code which created these types of savings plans in 1996. Although contributions are not deductible, earnings in a 529 plan grow federal tax-free and will not be taxed when the money is taken out to pay for college.” (source: investopedia).  See http://www.irs.gov/uac/529-Plans:-Questions-and-Answers for more information.

Although we opened up the 529 plans when the kids were young, we did not fund them enough.  When this happens you risk the fact of liquidating all the funds as early as the first year of college.  Let me say it again, we did not put away ENOUGH money.

collegeusatoday.com

collegeusatoday.com

Perhaps if you are fortunate, misconception number three will be your reality.  Grandma and Grandpa have set money aside for your little Johnny or Bette to attend college.  If that is the case, I applaud you and your parents.  There is nothing a grandparent wants more than to be able to provide for their cherished grandchildren.  But, if your parents are like most, their cost of living, their healthcare costs and their long-term-care costs have risen monumentally and they have had to re-adjust their finances.  Or maybe they suffered a tremendous financial loss in the stock market.  

The point is that there are too many unpredictable scenarios that could alter their well-intended plans to help your children financially.  Things may look promising now but you do not know what the situation will be as they age and live longer than past generations. See grandparents.about.com for more information.

pinterest.com

pinterest.com

Our children understand that they will have significant student loans to pay back as they enter the work force and navigate this tumultuous economy.  This is a fact for most families.There has been an alarming increase in the number of four-year college graduates with very large debts. Back in 2004, only 1 percent of students who earned a bachelor’s degree that year had borrowed $50,000 or more, adjusted for inflation. That grew to 10 percent in 2012.” (Source: us news.com).

Not all students are college-bound and there is absolutely nothing wrong with trade schools but regardless of what works for your family, there will be a cost attached to helping your children take advantage of the opportunities available to them, in order to succeed.

Although I am proud of our efforts and initiative we took early on, I regret not being better informed of the complexities, realities and steps necessary to prepare for our children’s college years and for letting some of those misconceptions blindly lead us along.

I hope that if you have young children and you were brave enough to have read this post in full, that you have learned something valuable and helpful to get you started with the  “C” word savings process.  

Now, go get started!

BREAKING NEWS out of A Middle-Class Household

google.com

google.com

Breaking News out of a Middle-Class Household

A middle-class family with one child in college and one beginning college in the fall, have received something very rare called, financial aid.  

The family is still in a state of shock and have not been able to fully comprehend how this miracle was bestowed upon them.  They ask that the media respect their privacy as they hold hands, chant and thank  the heavens above for this much-needed blessing.

Earlier reports state that the child currently in college, never received any such aid two years ago, when he needed it the most.  Understandably so, the family was very discouraged with a process that leaves middle-class families with little resources to pay for college.  Many families like the Brickhouses,  do not make enough money to afford sending their children to college but are told they make “too much” to qualify for aid. 

The child who will be attending college in the fall, tried very hard not to let this sad fact stop her from pursuing her dreams and applying to the colleges that interested her.  She worked tirelessly at school, was involved in many activities, played a varsity sport and held a part-time job.  Although she never showed her parents her college essay, many have said that it was a killer essay.

dreamstime.com

dreamstime.com

This motivated child applied to TEN different colleges (giving her parents many sleepless drunken nights.)  She was accepted to eight of them and was wait-listed at two.  Agonizing months went by before hearing information about a financial package (if any) the government and/or the schools would award the desperate parents child.

Police were called to the home this weekend with a report of a mother and a father marching around the home in unison, in a catatonic zombie-like state, fearlessly pinching themselves over and over again in sheer disbelief.  Once the police arrived at the scene, the parents explained that although they will be in debt for the rest of their lives with two in college, 4 of the child’s favorite colleges, had offered generous financial packages (based on merit and need), thus allowing their child to actually go to college.  Police admitted that they had only heard of a few cases of middle-class families receiving such awards.  They too were in disbelief.

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Mr. Brickhouse Amazon.com

stock-vector-skeletal-female-zombie-or-living-dead-reanimated-corpse-in-ragged-clothes-with-a-grotesque-122925409

Mrs. Brickhouse

It is reported that the Brickhouses are cautiously optimistic and admitted to reporters that they have recurring nightmares as well as daymares, that the Financial Aid Nazis will knock on their door any day now, to tell them that this was all a big mistake.  Needless to say, they are not answering the door or phone until both their children are out of college, have successful jobs and are at least, 50.

The next couple of weeks will be critical as they re-visit some of these schools, eat lunch at their mediocre dining commons – again and go over the list of pros and cons 83 more times for each college, with their child.

colourbox.com

Just Kidding!  No aid for you! colourbox.com

Family and friends are asked to pray that the ‘this was all a big mistake monsters’  do not show up at their door or climb in through a window, to take their happiness away.  They are also asked to pray that the parents survive the decision-making process of their hormonal 18 year-old daughter.

***Stay tuned for more DEVELOPING BREAKING NEWS out of a middle-class household***

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