If you’ve got a college-bound student who’s entering her senior year of high school, it’s time for her to identify a set of schools to which she’ll apply this fall.
Step 1 is to build a list of institutions at which she’ll be happy and that will help her mature and succeed. Lisa Micele, Director of College Counseling at the University of Illinois Laboratory High School, recently provided some wonderful guidance about this list.
Ms. Micele cautions against concentrating solely on so-call “top-tier” and “name-brand” colleges and universities. The total cost of attending many of these institutions easily exceeds $60,000 per year. Some admit less than 10% of their applicants, and not all of their admitted students get institutional grants and scholarships to help discount their high costs.
This warning is right on target. And a 2017 report from the Institute for Higher Education Policy found:
So before your student starts making her list, or at least early in that process, think carefully about your finances and family situation, then come up with answers to the following questions about how much your family will be able to contribute to your student each year from:
- Your annual income? Don’t forget expense reductions that can enhance this while she’s away at school – debt payments that’ll come to an end, her share of weekly grocery bills, money you can free up by squeezing your budget, etc.
- Your investment and savings accounts?
- Your retirement accounts? Think about how close you are to retirement when calculating this.
- Other family members? Consider funds from aunts and uncles, grandparents, and divorced spouses.
- What you would borrow in Federal Direct Parent PLUS Loans?
Now help your student answer these questions for herself:
- What’ll she be able to earn during summers and while in school?
- How much does she have in savings?
- What’s she willing to borrow in Federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans?
- How much Federal Pell Grant does the government’s FAFSA4caster estimate she’ll receive? It’s too early to count institutional, state, or private scholarships.
Add everything up and you’ve got an annual price range for schools your student can afford to put on her list. To find these prices, counsel her to search for “cost of attendance” on each school’s website, and then add another 4% per year (the approximate average annual increase in college cost over the last decade) for every year she’ll be enrolled.
Don’t worry. The U.S. has 4,360 degree-granting institutions, so your student will surely be able to some good “fits” in her price range while boosting her chance of graduating and keeping college debts lower – and isn’t that what it’s all about?
College Affordability Solutions can advise you and your student on strategies for keeping postsecondary education within your price range. Call (512) 366-5354 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a no-charge consultation.