Scholarships and Assistance to Pay for College
Many parents are worried about financing college. It is a genuine concern, for sure. Over the years the costs to attend a major 4 year university have skyrocketed. And in the past decade the salaries of Americans have been stagnant. So there is a gap, which appears to be widening. However, there are some things that many parents are not aware of and should be when thinking about college.
First, all schools have a financial aid office. All schools have a menu of options for parents to consider in order to have the tuition, fees, room and board covered. Most major state universities offer some sort of scale for in-state residents in terms of costs. Additionally, I encourage ALL parents to fill out the FASFA forms during January of the their child’s senior year in high school to find out how much they can get reduced off the price of the college or how much they can apply for in assistance through loans and grants.
If a family of four has income of less than 100K, and one student is going to college and the second child is either about to go to college or is already in college, many private universities offer the entire cost of the tuition and fees to the accepted student. Room and board are not part of the package, but the student is offered work-study and affordable housing options on campus grounds. There are also Resident Assistance jobs which provide free housing for the second through fourth years for the qualifying students.
Another little known assistance, which many parents are unaware of, is academic scholarships offered to students upon acceptance. Almost every school offers some scholarship funding. Some provide funding to as much as 75% of the student body. Who gets offered these scholarships and why? High GPA and SAT/ACT scores are what get noticed by admissions, and students who have these are often offered some very nice scholarship money to defray the costs of the tuition. I had one student a few years ago that was offered a complete scholarship package to a popular school in Boston for his high scores; he was awarded $125K. That was a great deal for him, as it was almost 100% of his tuition and fees for four full years.
Knowing this, I implore all students to go for the gold when working on those standardized tests. The higher scores keep the averages at the school high. This statistic helps with competition for the better students. Everyone wins because this elevates the entire student base by attracting more experienced teachers, researchers, etc. There is no downside for the college in offering money to those who have shown the willingness to rise to the challenge. So I often counsel a parent, that in the major urban areas in the US, the cost of gaining a prestigious score with preparation tutoring or classes might be an investment as high as $10-$20K, and often it is just that, but if the student can increase his or her SAT by 550 points and ends up being offered even just $50-85K in scholarship funding, that investment was worth it. I have had many offered 70% of the cost on their entire college education based on the higher GPA and SAT/ACT combination. Want that high score, contact us!
In addition to scholarships given by the college that accepts the student, there are also scholarships offered by most major corporations, memorial scholarships (high school guidance can assist with these) and some are offered by foundations. Planning the funding is a part of the college process that really needs to be attended to in the summer of junior year until orientation week of college. It is a process, just as applying to college is a process. Many parents are uncomfortable with the idea of disclosing so much personal financial information, but it is worth it. Almost every college wants your child to do well, and there are many people at the schools who find ways to complete the package of funding so that your child will not be over encumbered with debt upon graduation. The average debt carried right now upon graduation for those who are getting assistance for the full four years of school is $35K in the US for US citizens. In the mid 1980’s, that number was $12K. It is a hurdle for sure. However, it is not one that cannot be managed a bit better with a more conscious and bit more investigative approach to finding not just the right fit, but the affordable one as well.
A special note for 504 and ADA accommodated students, there is an actual medical tax deduction afforded for the entire cost of college-not just tuition, for some specific schools and programs. The colleges that offer significant resources to assist and accommodate, often a full third of their student body, can help you to understand how this is done. A tax professional will have to be consulted as to whether this is an option you can take advantage of or not. It is my understanding that there are limitations to the tax code as to how much and which is a better option, education deduction or the medical deduction. But you must ask.