The College Affordability Talk
Maryline Michel Kulewicz and Tracy Sullivan of College 101 Admissions Consultants
I wholeheartedly believe that a college education can change lives - but it is also an expensive proposition. Families should begin the process by having the “College Affordability Talk”. Parents and their children should sit down early in the process and have a family budget conversation with the goal of understanding the true affordability of college. Then, when the acceptance and financial aid packages arrive in the spring, there will be no question which colleges are the right financial fit for the family. Most students like to be a part of the affordability process so that they can ultimately manage their own expectations.
4 College Affordability Talk Discussion Topics:
1. How much does college really cost?
This is a “must have” discussion. Most families do not understand the expense of college. Using Massachusetts colleges as an example, the annual full-time tuition AND housing/dining costs for a 2-year state community college is $12K, a 4-year state university ranges from 23k- $33K, and a 4-year private institution can cost as much as 85K. However, keep in mind, most students do not pay the full sticker price- merit scholarships and need based financial aid will decrease the bottom line. A private college could easily end up being less expensive than a 4-year state university due to the merit/financial aid package a student receives. So, don’t rule out private schools.
The following 2 tools are useful when predicting costs: The college’s NPC (net price calculator) located on the college’s website. The NPC provides a cost estimate based on the specific student’s academic stats and family finances. Additionally, the Federal Student Aid Estimator located on the studentaid.gov website provides an early estimate of the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and eligibility for federal student aid.
2. How important is it to graduate on time?
It is VERY important. According to a study done at the University of Texas-Austin, students who took out loans and graduated in 4 years owed on average 40% less than students who graduated in 6 years. College is the perfect time for students to explore their interests, but it is wise to consider possible majors before leaving for college. Taking the time to assess academic interests, aptitudes, and career aspirations can provide the student with a road map of where to begin their journey and eliminate the number of times a student changes their major.
3. How much should a family borrow for college?
The family’s number one goal should be to keep debt to a manageable level. Many financial experts suggest student loans should not exceed the students first year’s salary, postgraduate, using $50,000 as the average salary. A helpful exercise is to develop a budget based on a $50K salary and see what the student can afford living on their own while having some fun too. Managing parent debt is vital too. According to financial experts the same rule applies- parents should not borrow more than their annual adjusted gross income for all their children in total (and less if the parents are close to retirement age). Useful tool: The loan simulator on studentaid.gov.
4. How about attending Community College first?
This is a perfect option to reduce the 4-year cost of college. Using Massachusetts as an example, the state universities have articulation agreements with 15 approved community colleges (CC). If a student meets the requirements, they can transfer from an approved CC to one of the state universities, as a junior, and still graduate in 4 years. The state also has agreements with a dozen or so private colleges. Students can live vibrant lives as a CC student and transfer along with many of their classmates to a 4-year state institution.
Remember that finding the right fit college is where the students’ academic, social, AND financial fit provide an environment where the student will flourish!
Good luck and enjoy the journey!
College 101 Admissions Consultants LLC. Website: www.mycollege101.com. Email: [email protected]. Phone: (508) 380-3845.
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