Compare Colleges Find Scholarships Financial Literacy College Pulse

Archive | Paying For College

September is College Savings Month – Let’s Talk College!

September is College Savings Month – Let’s Talk College!

collegesavingsWhile most people connect September with “back to school” season, not everyone may know that it’s also College Savings Month, a good reminder to parents to sit down as a family to evaluate and update their progress saving toward college goals. For some, it will be a simple check in and formal acknowledgment that everything’s on track. For others, it may be the first time that they’ve ever sat down and truly mapped out a plan. Regardless, families that prioritize and set goals together are accomplishing the most important part of the college savings process: communication.

In a time of rising college costs, one would hope that families are over-communicating to ensure that they’re able to cover all of the expenses at hand. But some high school students that we recently caught up with said otherwise, saying things like they “haven’t really talked about” saving for college with their parents. What’s more, Fidelity’s 8th annual College Savings Indicator Study[i] found that parents expect their children to pay an average of 35 percent of total college costs. With parents on track to save just 28 percent of their college savings goals, it’s no surprise that they’re turning to their children for help.

Having the college savings ‘talk’ is important.  Among parents with children 15 years or older, when having good conversations about school selection, choice of major, job prospects, earning potential and the meaning of student loans, more than two-thirds (69 percent) stated that they made adjustments to their plans.

So how can families get on the same page? The good news is that 64 percent of families have already started saving, but there’s always room to focus savings efforts and improve readiness. Here are five best practices that can take saving for college to the next level

(1) Make an actionable plan that can be followed

Fifty-nine percent of parents have a plan in place to help them reach their college goals. While they still have work to do, those with a plan are more likely to feel on track to reach their goal (52 percent) than those without (16 percent).

(2) Use a dedicated college savings account

Ninety-three percent of parents saving in a dedicated college account—like a 529 plan—say it helps them save and stay on track, while also separating college savings from other short-term goals. Families using 529 accounts feel more confident about how best to save, save more each month and are more likely to have talked to their children, creating a family plan to pay for college.  Making savings automatic can also help.  Setting up options such as direct deposit or automatic transfers from a checking account can make it easy.  Early and regular contributions are critical factors in building your savings.

(3) Identify new ways to save

You may recognize the need to save, but with so many other savings priorities, like day-to-day expenses, emergency funds and saving for retirement, don’t know how to find that extra dollar to save for college as well. Instead of thinking of ways to cut saving elsewhere, think of ways to take advantage of current spending. One option is a rewards credit card that can help earn money toward college savings. Another solution is asking friends and family. Many would likely welcome the opportunity to support college savings as a gift, especially grandparents. Fidelity’s Grandparents and College Savings Study found that 90 percent of grandparents said if asked, they would be likely to make a gift to college savings in lieu of traditional gifts for birthdays, holidays or other special occasions.

(4) Do the due diligence

The college saving process is often confusing, so study up on the essentials. Approximately half of parents reported they need additional education when it comes to how best to save for college, saying they either don’t know, or need more information about: what accounts are best to save (49 percent), how to invest savings (50 percent) or where to go for advice about college savings (48 percent).

(5) Look to the experts

You shouldn’t feel the need to go the college saving process alone. Six out of 10 parents report feeling overwhelmed by saving for college, but financial professionals, school counselors and college planning pros are available to help. Seven out of 10 families working with a professional feel confident that they have a good understanding of how best to save for college.

It’s never too early to get started on a college savings plan. In fact, those families who have discussions when their children are young are in a much better position to reach their savings goals. The earlier you broach the subject, the more time you have to learn about the college savings process, save, and adjust your plan accordingly.

Do you have a college savings plan in place?  Take advantage of College Savings Month to get your families college savings on the right track.

About the Author

Today’s guest article comes from Keith Bernhardt. He is vice president of college planning at Fidelity Investments.

The UNIQUE College Investing Plan, U.Fund College Investing Plan, Delaware College Investment Plan, and Fidelity Arizona College Savings Plan, are offered by the State of New Hampshire, MEFA, the State of Delaware, and the Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education, respectively, and managed by Fidelity Investments.  If you or the designated beneficiary is not a New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Delaware, or Arizona resident, you may want to consider, before investing, whether your state or the designated beneficiary’s home state offers its residents a plan with alternate state tax advantages or other benefits. Units of the Portfolios are municipal securities and may be subject to market volatility and fluctuation.  Please carefully consider the Plan’s investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses before investing.  For this and other information on any 529 College Savings Plan managed by Fidelity, contact Fidelity for a free Fact Kit, or view online.  Read it carefully before you invest or send money. Keep in mind that investing involves risk. The value of your investment will fluctuate over time and you may gain or lose money. Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC, Member NYSE, SIPC, 900 Salem Street, Smithfield, RI 02917 699317.1.0 ©2014 FMR LLC.  All rights reserved.

[i] Fidelity Investments, 2014 College Savings Indicator Study, August 2014

Posted in Paying For College0 Comments

Online Learning Offers Creative Paths to Success

Online Learning Offers Creative Paths to Success

OnlineEducationAs the busyness bubble continues to expand, finding ways to achieve the dream of a college education often requires creative uses of time, energy, and resources. No longer can colleges and universities expect future students to pursue the one-size-fits-all path to an education.  More innovative delivery systems, especially online learning programs designed around one’s life and work, are now providing considerable access to degree completion.

According to the IPEDS Data Center as reported in Inside Higher Education, 5.5 million students took at least one online course in fall 2012, and of those “2.6 million were enrolled fully online programs,” a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the higher education community.

National University, a recognized leader among online universities, for example, is quickly “becoming the second-largest private, nonprofit institution of higher education in California and 12th largest in the United States.” Part of its growth stems from its commitment to providing broad-based offerings at convenient locations using creative delivery systems, including a One-Course-Per-Month approach. As per the school itself, using “a unique one-course-per-month format” gives students “unprecedented focus and flexibility.”

Joshua Kim, director of Digital Learning Initiatives at the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning, takes it a step further, noting that the “best thing about working on online and low-residency programs is the students.” In his words, “online learning creates opportunity. The online and low-residency programs that I worked on allowed students to work towards their degree while continuing to work. Or while living at home in the summer. They were able to move through courses without having to move. Online learning extends educational opportunities because online learning transcends challenges of distance, schedules and time.”

Whether a student’s goal is to finish a degree, begin from scratch or expand an area of professional expertise, higher education now finds itself continually re-imagining how to deliver an educational experience that meets and exceeds the expectations of students of all ages and backgrounds.

“Anyone who has ever worked in an online program understands how deeply the research on learning has come to define the methods for online course design,” Kim continued. “Online courses contain frequent opportunities to improve learning through low-stakes testing and rapid feedback. Students in online courses are encouraged to reflect on the material in journals and discussion boards.  Active and collaborative learning is always the goal.”

Pursuing an online program also has advantages financially for both students and the college or university. According to the Randy Best, chairman and CEO of Academic Partnerships, “the growing wave of digital students creates a meaningful financial opportunity for institutions, especially when online programs are priced at fair e-tuition rates that drive scale. Online learning allows institutions to expand into new markets, extend their brand and prestige beyond regional borders, while at the same time allowing them to tap into legions of new students, building their global alumni base and seeding future fund-raising efforts.”

 

Posted in Paying For College0 Comments

What NOT to Do When You Can’t Afford College Without Parental Help

What NOT to Do When You Can’t Afford College Without Parental Help

Your parents probably started pushing you to attend college when you began preschool. They insisted that you join every extracurricular activity at your school in hopes of earning scholarships. Then, when they saw how much college was going to cost you, they turned out their pockets and said, “Sorry, we can’t help you.”

If your parents encouraged you toward the college route but were unable to assist to the level that they had hoped, or if your family had severe financial struggles and truly couldn’t afford to help, you still have options for getting a college degree. Don’t become one of those students who try to defraud the system. You can find legitimate options to fund your education.

Grant Fraud? Don’t Even Think About It

The U.S. government distributes Pell Grants totaling as much as $5,500 to needy students, and it sends the grant money directly to the students’ colleges. Colleges deduct their portion of tuition and give the money to students to help students pay for room, board and supplies. Unfortunately, some fraudsters called “Pell runners” target inexpensive online schools or community colleges, apply for and get accepted to low-cost degree programs.  When their Pell Grant disbursements come, they take the cash, drop out of school and disappear.

In some cases, studied by students at a school that offers an accredited MS in Criminology program, Pell running is the work of gangs of students (to read more about how gangs have branched out into white-collar crime, visit this page). In Arizona, a student named Trenda Halton recruited over 60 fake students to sign up for college, get the Pell Grant money and give her a $500 to $1,000 cut. Colleges and the Department of Education are cracking down on Pell running; Halton and her cohorts were all sentenced for their crimes. Complete your FAFSA and take advantage of Pell Grants if you can, but don’t attempt to get cash by committing grant fraud.

crossingfingersLying on the FAFSA? Not a Chance

If your parents either refuse to help or can’t help you pay for school, you might think that the best solution is declare yourself an independent student. The bad news is that if you don’t meet government requirements for independent students, then declaring your independence requires lying on your FAFSA.

Unfortunately, it’s not easy to be declared an independent student. You have to do more than move out of your parents’ house. You’re not even considered independent when they don’t claim you on their taxes. Unless you’re an Armed Forces member or veteran, supporting dependent children, considered an emancipated minor, going to graduate school or past your 24th birthday, then you’re considered dependent no matter what your parents do.

If you’re caught committing FAFSA fraud, you could get up to five years in prison and a $20,000 fine. You would also have to reimburse the government for any money that you received, and if your school has an honor code, you’re likely to be expelled.

So What Are Your Options?

If you received an acceptance letter only to discover that your parents can’t pay, you can try other options to get your degree.

  • Pick a cheap school. You might have to get an affordable undergraduate degree at a less prestigious school. On a positive note, since grad students are considered independent, your parents’ income won’t count when you go for your master’s or doctorate. So, for your graduate degree, you can swing for the fences and apply to a great school.
  • Investigate scholarships. Even if you have to take an extra year to line up money, take some time to look into available scholarships. Hit up community groups, religious groups and industry groups related to your field. Also, use the Department of Labor’s scholarship search engine.
  • Get a job. Many employers offer at least partial tuition reimbursement. Some employers, like Starbucks, have agreements with colleges and universities so that their employees get a free or reduced-price college education.

Remember that your parents’ inability to pay your tuition isn’t about you; it’s about them. Also, when you’re trying to go to school, don’t be shy about searching for financial assistance and assertively asking for available money. You deserve to build a great future whether you are getting help from your parents or not.

Posted in Paying For College1 Comment

College: Removing Luck from the Equation

College: Removing Luck from the Equation

4-leaf clover on white backgroundLooking back, I realize my college experience was blessed with a relative lack of burdens. Naturally, I experienced the social and academic trials and trivialities most everyone will encounter. I was an athlete, wrote for the school paper and maintained a job or two, so I was definitely busy, but these responsibilities were more privilege than burden.

Through a combination of scholarships, grants, earned income and parental support, I was able to graduate after four years at a private school less than $5,000 in debt. I didn’t entirely realize it at the time, but that is a quasi-miraculous outcome. As I said, I am overwhelmingly blessed, and have countless people to thank for their support.

Anyone who makes it to college has hundreds of people to thank. No one does it alone. Some combination of teachers, parents, friends, haters and lovers help us along the way. Sometimes it’s the little things — a smile of encouragement, an extra hour of tutoring — that make the biggest difference. All those little moments add up and make a major impact on our lives.

That being said, the big things still loom large. Tuition is one of those major barriers standing between many qualified students and the education they desire and deserve. I have friends whose path through college took six or more years — not because they were partying too much, not because they were in medical school, but because they were forced to sacrifice credit hours in exchange for clocking an hourly wage.

Higher education is expensive, and isn’t getting any cheaper. A paper published by the American Council on Education shows that from 2006 to 2011, tuition at 4-year public universities rose 22 percent. Meanwhile, as of March 2012, student debt has nearly tripled over the past 8 years to a mind-boggling total of $1.1 trillion.

Money should not stand in the way of deserving students seeking the knowledge and experience that will be the foundation for their lives. That foundation should not be sabotaged from the start by the overbearing weight of unnecessary debt. That is why I was so pleased to discover that there is quality assistance available to help students significantly reduce their tuition costs.

In-State Angels is an organization started in 2011 to serve the needs of students at the University of Colorado-Boulder. It has since grown and now serves students going to almost 150 schools around the country. Their sole mission is to help students qualify for in-state tuition as soon as is legally possible.

The difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition can be almost $10,000 per semester. With so much money at stake, the schools have made sure that the qualification process for in-state status is fraught with peril. The regulations are constantly shifting, and carry stiff penalties for any impropriety, be it purposeful or not.

In-State Angels is an experienced navigator of these treacherous bureaucratic waters. They do everything they can — short of registering a student’s car in their new home state or getting him-or her dressed in the morning — to make the process smooth and simple. Significantly, personally-assigned Angels work for free until in-state status has been officially established and the student is already saving thousands of dollars per semester.

These Angels provide a profoundly valuable service. By making tuition affordable where it previously was not, they are expanding educational opportunities for students, creating the opportunity for them to grow into debt-free graduates.

College is a time of personal growth and transformation. Students don’t need any unnecessary stress added to their already burdened minds. It is hard enough to figure out how to pay for dinner, much less next semester’s tuition.

That being the case, it is worthwhile to check with In-State Angels to see if you or a student you know is a good candidate for their services. It might save them (or you) a lot of money, and a lot of headache.

It is my sincere desire for more students to graduate with less debt, and ISA is on a mission to see that happen. Seek them out, ask them questions, allow them to help. It never hurts to have Angels on your side.

 About the Author:

Today’s article comes from David McConaghay, a writer and professional enthusiast based in Boulder, Colorado. He supports In-State Angels based on his passionate belief that everyone deserves affordable access to higher education. You are invited to follow him on Twitter @DaveTelf.

Posted in Paying For College0 Comments

College Bound? The Best New Cars for the Frugal College Student

College Bound? The Best New Cars for the Frugal College Student

collegecarIf you have a college-bound student heading off to university in the fall, you’re probably already planning to make sure they have everything they need once they arrive on campus. But what about how they’ll get there and get around once school starts?

An estimated 22 million college U.S. college students are heading to campus this year and the last thing you want to do is send yours off in an old, unreliable or unsafe car. If your teenager is still driving grandma’s old beater, there’s a good chance the car won’t even make it to the college dorm room parking lot when you help them move in.

Buying a new car for your college-bound son or daughter is an important part of planning for college. By using a reputable car valuation service like Kelley Blue Book, you can make sure you’re getting a fair price on a new car.

Here are the five best new cars for the frugal college student who is looking to save a few bucks while still looking cool and staying safe on the road.

Fiat 500

The little Italian cars long popular in Europe have really picked up speed in the United States. The model 500 car is selling especially fast, with many of those buyers being late teenagers. The Italian auto maker revamped its original 1957 subcompact car with a sporty exterior and interior and gets very good gas mileage.

Honda Fit

The Honda Fit is an affordable, safe and compact car that gets very good mileage. Being a Honda, the Fit also will not require much maintenance, making it perfect for college kids who don’t have a lot of cash for expensive repairs.

Toyota Prius

The Toyota Prius is another great option for frugal college students who want to save money on gas and help the environment at the same time. The Prius now also comes in several different styles, so if the natural hatchback is not to your student’s liking, they can have their pick of other body types. A little pricier than an all-gasoline car, the cost of the hybrid car is deferred while saving on gas and helping save the environment.

Nissan Rogue

Crossovers like the Nissan Rogue are a little compact car with some SUV mixed in. The new Rogue seats up to seven people, but you wouldn’t know from looking at it on the outside. The Rogue is a bit more expensive than a smaller car, but it’s safe and having all the storage space in the car is perfect for those long drives back home with loads of dirty laundry.

Kia Soul

The Kia Soul is another great crossover option for college students on a budget. Perhaps you’ve seen their commercials with the hamsters dancing and driving. Hopefully your college kids won’t have too big of a party in this great vehicle, although it has several amenities such as a booming sound system and other features that make it a super cool car. It also has about 20 cubic feet of cargo space to give plenty of room to pack for the long trip home.

Posted in Paying For College2 Comments

Roadblocks to Paying for College: Your Parents’ Bankruptcy

Roadblocks to Paying for College: Your Parents’ Bankruptcy

bankruptcyEntering into college can be stressful, especially when considering you financial situation. Unfortunately, there are a few things that can make financing your college career even more challenging.

Your Parents’ Influence

If you’re in any way dependent on your parents for your college tuition, then you’ve probably noticed by now that schools rely on a credit-check of your parents’ accounts.

If your parents have, at any time, declared bankruptcy or are even in the midst of it, you’re probably worrying about your ability to pay for a college.

Here are some things you’ll want to know about receiving grant money, your eligibility for government assistance and much more.

The Bankruptcy Reform of 1994

Right off the bat, we’re going to put some of your fears to rest – you’re still eligible for grant money.

The Bankruptcy Reform of 1994 ensures that you, as a student, can’t be denied federal grants because of your parents’ credit history. So, even if your parents have filed bankruptcy in the past or are undergoing the process at the time of your application, it won’t be held against you.

Thankfully this reform also ensures that you can receive scholarships to further your education. To that end, you’ll be able to receive the same benefits as students who have parents with a clear credit history. Your parents can even set up payment plans so that your transition will be even smoother.

The US Stafford Loan in particular is an example of a government loan which is always available to you regardless of your credit history.

Federal PLUS Loans and Bankruptcy

Unfortunately, there is at least one type of loan which is dependent on a good credit history from your parents. Only individuals with a clear credit history can apply for The Federal PLUS Loan. So what does this mean for you?

If your parents are denied a Federal PLUS Loan, then you may actually be eligible for a larger unsubsidized government loan. This can even take effect within the first two years of college. Students who received larger unsubsidized loans in the first two years of college have been recorded as getting up to $4,000 more right away. It’s also been reported that you can receive up to $1,000 more (in addition to the first $4,000) for your last two years.

If you have your heart set on a Federal PLUS Loan, you’ll need to find a cosigner with good credit.

Private Schools and Bankruptcy

It’s important to note, however, that private schools have different regulations for the application process and the grants which go through their institution.

Although the reform of 1994 applies across the board to federal student loans, it doesn’t apply to private school ones. Each private school retains the right to check your parents’ credit history through the past seven to ten years.

Getting Help

Applying for financial aid can be challenging. The most important thing to remember is help is always available. Contact someone in your college’s financial aid department. The staff is well-informed about school policy and may even be able to help set you up with a payment plan or a loan that fits your situation best.

If your parents are considering bankruptcy, contact a bankruptcy lawyer right away. This law professional can give you additional information about how the process will affect your college education. Sometimes, it is beneficial to consider the timing of filing bankruptcy. Maybe your parents will want to wait until after you’re enrolled.

Your education is important. Just because your parents may have had a rough spot with their credit doesn’t mean your education should have to suffer for it.

Posted in Paying For College0 Comments

6 Ways to Save on Entertainment Costs for College Students

6 Ways to Save on Entertainment Costs for College Students

entertainmentHopefully before you started college, you applied for financial aid. And with any luck, you scored a scholarship, and maybe a grant or two. With the help of your aid package, you probably feel confident that you can finance your education, but student aid doesn’t cover entertainment expenses. To offset the cost of movies, travel, and parties, it’s important to adopt a frugal mindset. Use these tips to save on entertainment while in school.

1. Use Your ID Card
Your student ID card presents numerous opportunities to save, both on campus and off. Most universities work with local businesses to provide discounts to students who present their cards, so always keep your ID handy – it might score you a free drink or a buy-one, get-one deal at a nearby bowling alley. Also know that your card provides free or discounted entry to many on-campus entertainment options, such as sporting events, concerts, and movies.

2. Ask for Discounts
Be sure to ask about student discounts wherever you go. Most large entertainment venues, including minor league sporting events, movie theaters, and even ski resorts, are happy to cater to students by offering a better deal.

3. Cook in
Cooking in can save you money while providing a night of entertainment. Grab your roommate, hit the grocery store, and pick up whatever you need to cook lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs, or fajitas. Then consider selling your leftovers to other students cramming for finals or looking for a late-night meal. You’re not only saving money, you’re generating it. You can even lower your expenses by clipping coupons from the Sunday paper or looking them up on a mobile app, such as Pushpins.

4. Entertain In-Room
Do you need a night off from your studies? Enjoy in-room fun rather than hitting the town. Classic board games, such as Pictionary or Scattergories, are good options, as are Apples to Apples and card games like Spoons. Rent movies from a Redbox kiosk at roughly $1 per day, then grab your friends for a low-key night in.

5. Limit the Keg Parties
Keg parties are fun, there’s no doubt. But if you’re required to pitch in for the cost of beer, or you’re asked to provide some of your own beer and snacks as backup, a single night out can really add up. Besides, attending class with a hangover won’t do much for your GPA.

6. Participate in Intramural Sports
Intramural sports represent a great way to spend some of your down time. If you’re talented at basketball, baseball, or even flag football, you can get active and have fun for next to nothing.

It may seem like putting entertainment expenses on a credit card is no big deal, but those bills are likely to come back to bite you down the road. Not only is credit card debt expensive (all those interest payments add up), but if you make credit card use a habit, it’ll be hard to break later. Instead, develop a frugal mindset. If you can start saving money while in school, you’ll be prepared to start paying off your student loans after you graduate.

What are some other ways to save on entertainment costs while in college?

About The Author:

Today’s guest article comes from Gary Richardson. He is a financial writer who shares tips about saving money, banking, and getting the most out of college – all while staying within budget.

Posted in Paying For College0 Comments

How to Pay for College Without Going Crazy or Broke

How to Pay for College Without Going Crazy or Broke

CollegeJarYou worked hard in high school and earned good grades, and the acceptance letters are starting to come in. Great! – now you just have to find a way to pay for it all. The average cost of tuition and fees for a state resident attending public college is about $8,900, according to the College Board. That number jumps to $22,200 for out-of-state students. Add in housing and meals (around $9,500 a year or so), and it’s easy to see why even the most calm and collected student wants to run for the hills when someone asks, “So, how are you going to pay for college?”

Student Loans

The average student who takes out one or more student loans to pay for college ends up with about $26,000 in debt upon graduation, CNN reports. That’s a significant chunk of change for anyone, much less new grads who are just starting out in the world. In an effort to help students get the funding they need, Inside Higher Ed reports that President Obama is working to keep student aid programs level-funded, including boosting the amount that college students can get through the Pell Grant program. To learn more about the federal student aid programs available to you, click here!

Look for Bargains

Some public colleges have placed a freeze on tuition. Iowa State schools and the University of California college systems have suggested keeping tuition amounts steady. In 2012, Antioch College in Yellow Spring, Ohio, offered students a full four-year scholarship if they enrolled in the next three years. To learn more about tuition freezes at U.S. schools, inquire at the financial aid office of the individual schools you are interested in.

Go Beyond Student Loans

Research other ways you can bring in money to help pay for tuition:

  • If you receive regular annuity or structured settlement payments, you may be able to sell these future payments for a lump sum of cash now. To find out more about selling your future payments, visit J.G. Wentworth.
  • Look into crowdfunding to help raise money. For tips from students who have done so successfully, read this U.S News & World Report article.

Look Into Income-Dependent Loans

Instead of being locked into repaying a student loan at a certain amount for a specified length of time, college students may want to research an income-driven repayment loan. This type of loan lets graduates limit the amount they pay back each month to a certain percentage of their income. As a bonus, graduates who go on to work in certain public service careers may be able to have their loans dismissed, after they’ve paid on it for 10 years. Click here for more information on student loan forgiveness programs.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Posted in Paying For College0 Comments

Advert