By: Lori T. Williams, Esq.
School may be out for summer, but parents still need an education….. in college planning! Learn about the common miconceptions surrounding college planning and scholarships, according to Certified College Planning Specialist, Jeffrey Taylor. Taylor shared more tips earlier this year about student marketing and why early planning is better for your student. Read Taylor’s prior blog here.
“My job is to help parents save time and money in planning for and paying for their child’s college education”, says Taylor. “One of the easiest ways to save time is to not search for scholarships.” This may sound counter-intuitive because all parents would love for their children to receive scholarships, so why not pursue them? The answer, according to Taylor, is that “student athletes, National Honor Society students, Validictorians, and students active in extra curricular activities like Science Clubs are the ones who always get scholarships, and they don’t even ask for them.” It’s all due to what Taylor refers to as “student marketing”. Students who are positioned to get noticed, like the athletes, NHS students, etc., and whose parents and teachers make sure they are noticed by the “powers that be” at colleges, are the ones who predictably find the funding needed to pay for college.
Taylor explains, financial aid is based on the following factors:
•Planning of the parent(s);
•Preparation by the student.
“Private dollars (such as scholarships) only constitutes 2% of all college funding available, so don’t waste your time searching for scholarships,” says Taylor. “The rest of college funding comes from financial aid, or parents/grandparents using their savings or retirement plan dollars, or student loans, or the better method—pre planning for college”. Taylor advocates marketing or positioning a student to put them in the center of the largest pool of money available.
Factors which help position the student to obtain funding include:
•Strong GPA (3.2 or better. Some schools like University of Michigan want to see a 3.7 or higher);
•Strong test scores on ACT/SAT (the magic number varies school to school);
•Community Service (demonstrated through pictures, certificates, etc.)
Taylor notes that while strong test scores and a high GPA are desirable, they still don’t guarantee funding for college. “What college ‘costs’, will vary family to family”, says Taylor. “There are ways to lower the cost of college through proper planning. Additionally, utilizing a cost recovery plan allows you to save for college and recover your out of pocket dollars at the end of college, so you can protect your retirement dollars.”
Taylor advises against taking out loans for college as a primary funding method, because unforeseen circumstances can arise that will put you at financial risk in the future. “If the parent who signed or co-signed for a loan thereafter experiences a job loss, serious medical condition, or financial problem, he or she is still responsible for repayment of the loan.” Student loans are non dischargeable in Bankruptcy, so there really is no way to get rid of this debt other than paying it off. “Rather than put yourself in debt and experience future financial stress you may not recover from, it is better to pre-plan paying for college,” says Taylor. “That way you can preserve your assets and savings for your retirement years.”
For most families, the home equity loan is no longer a viable college funding strategy because of the current housing market with many homes having little to no equity, or having a value less than their mortgage(s). Taylor notes that “new college funding strategies continually become available, but families need to be educated about their options so they can choose what works best for their situation.”
Points to ponder and share:
•What, if anything, has changed about your perception of college funding options or strategies from reading this article?
•What challenges have you faced trying to educate yourself about college funding options?
•What obstacles or success have you experienced searching for scholarships?
Jeffrey Taylor is a Certified College Planning Specialist, with over 20 years of financial consulting experience. His company, College Funding Resource, LLC, is located in Southfield, MI. Jeff’s planning experience includes but is not limited to college admissions, student loan debt elimination, out of pocket cost recovery strategies, college aid planning, and various techniques that are designed to reduce or eliminate the high cost of college. For more information, visit his website.