Thinking About College: Financial Aid

As the parent of a high-school junior, one thing has been on my mind of late: college: which one, and how am I going to pay for it? Through my lunchtime reading I’ve come across a number of articles related to the subject, and so I thought I would collect them here (both for my reference and for any of my readers in a similar situation).

The first step, of course, is finding the right college. College Planning Associates (a group we’re working with) has some good blog posts on campus visits: when to visit, what to do during the visit, and questions to ask during a visit. The Macomb Patch also has a nice article on what parents need to think about in planning for college.

Paying for it is the hard part. CNBC has a nice post on five ways to cut the cost of college—certainly good ideas if they work for you. They also have a good post on the hunt for financial aid and the wide variety of aid options out there. The LA Times, in the article that prompted this post, has a nice article on how to read, interpret, and assess the aid letters once you receive them. Lastly, related to financial aid, is an aritlce from the Huffington Post on how people end up paying for college: 37% parent income and savings; 23% grants and scholarships; 14% student borrowing; 10% parent borrowing; 9% student income and savings; and 7% friends and relatives.

Lastly, there’s also a good article from the Univ. of Virginia on how financial need affects the college admission process in general. The basic question there is: should colleges ensure that a family can afford to send their child to four years at their college before they issue the acceptance, for too many individuals are accepted, and then discover midway through college they can no longer afford it. A lot of this is that families don’t understand the bottom line costs of attending college these days (which, I believe, is very different than when us parents went to college — my quarterly registration fee at UCLA was $234!).

As for us: the first round of college trips are in June: Tulane, Rhodes, Bellarmine, Washington University (St Louis); the second round is in August (University of Portland, Reed, and one I can’t remember). SATs and ACTs are scheduled, and our daughter’s AP workload is intense (but she loves it). Thus: we start exploring the financial so we’re ready this time next year when we get the aid letters.


College Trip Planning

Well, the planning for the first college visit trip has started. We fly to New Orleans on 6/12 to visit Tulane, drive to Memphis on 6/15 and then visit Rhodes College, drive to Louisville Ky on either the 18th or 19th and visit Bellarmine, and then on to St. Louis to visit my mom’s alma mater, Washington University. The tickets are booked and email is sent off to arrange campus tours (none of their calendars permit selecting dates in June). Once those are set, I’ll work on hotels and the rental car. [Campbell University, in b***-f*** NC, was also on the list but didn’t work out time-wise: 14 hrs from New Orleans, and then 9hrs to Louisville]

Later in August, my wife will do a trip to explore some universities in the Portland area. The list there includes Pacific U, Reed University, and University of Portland.


News Chum Stew

It’s Friday. You know what that means is on the menu… that’s right. News Chum Stew.

  • Worrying About College. One thing that has been on my mind this week is the simple question: “How am I going to pay for my daughter to go to college?” We are working with some folks to help us with that (and I should note they have a very good blog), but there were some articles I found this week that also have useful information. The first concerns something I’d never heard of: the Western Undergraduate Exchange. Through this program, students in western states may enroll in more than 140 two-year and four-year college institutions at a reduced tuition level: 150 percent of the institution’s regular resident tuition. The second is an article about Sewanee College in Tennessee, which has decided to reduce its tuition–something very rare these days.
  • Worrying About Money. Of course, college is an expense, which can be helped by income. Alas, recent surveys are showing that technical salaries are stagnent for a second year in a row. Some interesting numbers in the article. Nationwide, the average technology salary rose 0.7% to $79,384 in 2010, after a similarly weak rise in 2010. The average wage for a worker with less than two years of experience has dropped 6% since 2008. In California, salaries fared slightly better, rising 0.9% to $90,521 in 2010 after a 1% increase in 2009. In comparison, the national cost of living rose 1.5% last year and 2.7% the year before, according to the Bureau of Labor Standards. Still, nearly 40% of tech professionals think they could make more money if they change employers in 2011.
  • Chinese Cars. An interesting article in the NY Times asking “Where are the Chinese cars?”. An even more interesting article is a review of a Chinese Hybrid Compact.
  • A Landmark Is Gone. Alas, the Shoe Tree on US 50 is no more. Vandals have cut it down.