note: this is a guest blog post in which Dr Steven Greene provided content and quotes for Harvest Advisors and their financial planning professional Sean Cook. (http://info.harvestmywealth.com/blog/author/sean-cook)
Whether you’re a parent whose child is planning to attend a college in Pennsylvania in the near future, or you’re a prospective student yourself, figuring out how you’re going to pay for college is probably a top concern. If you plan to attend a school such as the University of Pennsylvania, you can expect tuition and fees for Philadelphia colleges to cost upwards of $50,000, and room and board fees of more than $14,000.
But in today’s economy, how do you approach the increasing overlap between financial planning and providing a college education?
THE TIME TO START PLANNING IS NOW
If your child is a senior in high school, you’re likely wondering how you’re going to come up with the amount you need to pay for school. Unless you pick a winning lottery ticket or experience some other sort of financial windfall, it’ll be easier for you to make a plan if you start the process much earlier than senior year.
Picking a public or private Philadelphia university that appeals to your child academically is obvious, but sometimes you also need to pick a school that makes sense financially. A high school student may have the grades to get into a premium college, but may not be able to afford the cost of attendance. And on the flipside, they may not have the grades to get into their top school but are able to afford it.
The challenge for most people is having the ability to write checks for tuition when you need to during the years that your child is in school, but most people don’t really think about that early enough to accrue the amount of money needed to cover the entire cost of a college education. Awareness is key. It’s important to balance going to college and not going bankrupt while doing it.
Don’t worry too much about it. Most people don’t win the lottery or come into a sudden windfall of money. You do have options. Starting to plan as soon as you can is incredibly important, but so is looking into all possible financial aid options. Most financial aid packages include loans and possibly also grants, so the best solution is to turn in any applications for financial aid before they’re due.
MERIT-BASED AID TO RECEIVE MORE EDUCATION FUNDING
Recently, more and more colleges have been tying financial aid to merit aid, which is based on grades, GPA and standardized test scores. Increased test scores put prospective college students in a more favorable position to get aid.
Here’s an example. A student received a 1190 on her SAT. She was accepted into her top school, and was awarded $10,000 per year in financial aid. However, the school costs $50,000 to attend each year. Her parents called the school to ask if there was any way she’d be eligible to receive more aid, and someone mentioned that their daughter could receive $18,000 if she had a 1200 SAT score, which would save her $8,000 every year in tuition fees.
She dedicated several weeks to test prep in an effort to increase her score, and managed to get a 1220, which allowed her to receive that extra $8,000 per year.
Historically, financial aid was need-based. Recently, it’s becoming more merit-based. A few years ago, students were concentrating on getting better test scores so they can attend their top school.
Nowadays, students aren’t only worried about getting into the college they want to go to, they’re also trying to get a good enough score to pay for their education.
The link between test scores and financial aid has become a big deal, and it will only become a bigger deal as college admissions continue to become more competitive and as attendance becomes more expensive.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP
If your child is planning to attend college in the near future, it’s essential to make a financial and academic plan as early as you can. Talking to a qualified financial adviser can be a huge help, but it’s also important to make an academic plan.
Some students just don’t test well, which is an issue. But if that’s your concern, an academic counselor may be able to help you, as well. Definitely contact the recruitment and financial aid offices at the Philadelphia or Pennsylvania colleges and universities of your choice.
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