If you have children, saving for their college education is probably among your financial goals. Today, the average tuition at a private college is over $22,000. Refinance the house? Dip into retirement? Not according to Anne Marie Chaker at the Wall Street Journal Online. Her article Seven Myths About College Finances debunks several assumptions people are likely to make if they don’t look deeper into college financial aid.
Myth 1: Financial aid means grants and scholarships. Truth: Financial aid includes scholarships and grants (don’t have to be paid back) as well as federal loans. Loans can be subsidized and unsubsidized, but either way there is a cap on the interest rate–saving big bucks over the long term. Some jobs after college offer loan-forgiveness programs.
Myth 2: My assets (home and retirement savings) will prevent me from getting a need-based loan. Truth: The home you live in and retirement plans are not included when determining how much aid you can get under federal rules. Private colleges may use a separate formula, but do not include retirement savings.
Myth3: I should go with the lender preferred by my college financial aid office. Truth: Shop around and read the “fine print.” What looks like a good deal upfront might include an origination fee, or heavy penalties for missing a payment.
Myth 4: I’m doomed if I have two kids in college at the same time. Truth: You are likely to qualify for more aid.
Myth 5: The federal aid process follows a strict formula and my situation will never be given special consideration. Truth: College aid officers have the authority to make adjustments on a case by case basis. Documentaiton will be required.
Myth 6: Our child is likely to receive many private scholarships. Truth: Nearly all financial aid officers agree that parents overestimate the amount of scholarship and grant money children will receive.
Myth 7: The 529 college savings plan is bound to be the best for me. Truth: Shop around–be sure to look at fees.
If you are researching college financial aid, be sure to check out this post by Anna Leider.
After reading these articles, my biggest question is: Have parents always footed the bill for college? It never occurred to me to ask my roommates how they were financing their education; I only know that at least half of them worked. My parents paid my first year of room and board, but after that I was on my own. Just the idea that they would have used their retirement or refinanced their home to pay for my education seems crazy to me.
Has a college education become an entitlement? Even at the expense of the parent’s financial future? We live in a land of opportunity, and some believe that our country stays strong because life isn’t handed to us on a plate. We believe in hard work, and the self-made man. By giving our children everything, do we rob them of the chance to struggle, work hard, and fulfill their potential?
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