A Year of College Affordability Solutions

College Affordability Solutions is dedicated to helping families keep higher education spending within their means. It uses this website to highlight postsecondary educational cost-management strategies at the times of the year when you and/or your student are most likely to need them.

21-of-the-most-beautiful-college-campuses-in-amer-2-20243-1428837186-9_dblbigDespite those who’ll try to talk your student out of college, postsecondary education is still worthwhile even if he or she has to borrow to pay for it. But student loans increase the cost of college, so do everything possible to minimize their use.

Over the last year, we’ve covered several approaches to keeping college and college-related debt affordable. Click on any of the links below to learn more . . .

Before College

Various investment and savings programs can help you prepare for college bills. Among these are 529 plans and college savings bonds, but you should explore them all – the sooner the better.

And be sure to apply for financial for every year of college. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible after October 1 but, by all means, before your FAFSA priority deadline arrives.

Student dependency status plays a big role in who completes the FAFSA. Other family factors do, too. But it isn’t as hard to complete as you’ve heard, especially if you fulfill 5 key steps, gather all the documents you need, and get answers to your last-minute FAFSA questions before doing so.

Long before the FAFSA, your student needs to begin aggressively searching for scholarships. It’s critical to know about the when and where and the how of doing this.

Pay close attention after you file your FAFSA to make sure you handle what happens next. Then carefully assess your financial aid offers as they arrive from colleges.

But it’s not all about financial aid and scholarships. A critical factor in college affordability is for your student to enroll in a college and major that fits him or her well.

During College

Once college begins, you can help your student keep his or her expenses within reason.140815_FF_BestCollegeCard Limited spending and indebtedness is important even with today’s low college loan interest rates.

Some of the most effective strategies for minimizing student borrowing include your student getting through college in 4 years or less while carefully managing money and avoiding rip offs such as the recent “student tax” scam. A little-known but highly-effective cost-saver involves returning unneeded federal loan dollars with 4 months of disbursement.

Help your student keep college more affordable by giving him or her some holiday gifts that’ll lower his or her reduce expenses upon returning to school and by recommending he or she generate funds through seasonal employment instead of borrowing.

After College

Seven out of 10 students borrow before earning their degrees, and over 90% of their loans come from federal loan programs. Fortunately, the government has designed  post-graduation strategies to help keep educational debt manageable.


Your student needs to understand what happens to college loans after graduation. It’s worthwhile to consider the pros and cons of student loan consolidation, an often-used tactic for reducing monthly debt payments. Equally important is knowing how your student might qualify for forgiveness on all or part of what he or she owes.

Coming in 2017

We’re taking a few weeks off for the holidays, but beginning January 4 we’ll start publishing again about plans for keeping college affordable. Here’s hoping you have the happiest of holiday seasons, and that you’ll rejoin us then!

 Find out more about College Affordability Solutions and its services at https://collegeafford.com, or by calling (512) 366-5354.

Is College Worth It? Damn Right It Is!

Many so-called experts claim college isn’t worth what students and families pay for it. This is especially true, they say, because students must borrow so much and, besides, there are lots of great job opportunities right out of high school.

This is rubbish! Pure baloney! How do we know? Because almost everyone who says it has a college degree. And they’re in jobs requiring college degrees.

Want to earn more and reduce your chances of unemployment? Get as much education as you can handle:

2015 Earnings and Unemployment by Education Level of Americans 25 and Older

Education Median Weekly Earnings Unemployment Rate




No High School Diploma



High School Diploma



Some College, No Degree



Associate’s Degree



Bachelor’s Degree



Master’s Degree



Doctoral Degree



Professional Degree



Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Small wonder College Board found that 90% of college graduates from America’s lowest-income families moved up to higher income levels than their parents.

And that student debt? 2015 college graduates borrowed an average of $30,100 while in school. At the very most, it’ll cost them $69,356 to repay such a debt. That’s a lot! But median lifetime earnings for Americans with bachelor’s degrees is $954,000 more than for those with high school diplomas. Result? At least $13.75 earned for every dollar repaid — not a bad return!

Do you want to help make America great again? Get more education. The Congressional Research Service reported that, in 2013, 21% of Americans who only finished high school lived in poverty while just 7% of those with bachelor’s degrees were in poverty.

The College Board found that households headed by parents with high school diplomashappy graduates were as much as six times more likely than those with bachelor’s degrees to rely on expensive public assistance programs, and that Americans vote more, volunteer more, and pay more taxes as they become more educated.

Don’t overspend on college. Don’t seek a bachelor’s degree if you’re after a career requiring a less-expensive associate’s degree. And don’t borrow more than you absolutely need. But don’t let the phonies fool you, either! A college degree is the best investment you’ll ever make in yourself!

College Affordability Solutions brings 40 years of experience to help students and families figure out ways to pay less for college. Call (512) 366-5354 or email collegeafford@gmail.msn for such help.

A Degree in 4 Years: The Best Way to Limit College Costs

The new school year is here! Fall semester is beginning on campuses all across America. You may have just dropped your student off at college. If you did, chances are a few tears were shed as you pulled away from campus.

Yes, the college years generate many opportunities for parental tears. One of the most common occurs every time you pay those college-related bills — for tuition, fees, books, room, board, and the other expenses your student incurs. The latest data available from College Board show that, for two semesters in 2015-16, all these expenses added up to an average of $24,062 at public in-state institutions and $47,831 at private schools.

Higher education costs are particularly subject to escalation, so every year your student’s college expenses are likely to grow faster than inflation. They’ve increased an average of 5.5% per year at public colleges and 5.0% at private universities since 2005-06. At this rate, 4 years at public and private institutions will average $110,226 and $215,938, respectively, for this fall’s entering freshman class. But only about 40% of American undergraduates complete their degrees within 4 years, so it is important to remember that, in 2020-21, the average cost of extra time in college will cost approximately:

                                                                           One Semester        Academic Year

Public College or University                           $15,725                    $31,450

Private College or University                         $30,380                    $60,760

Clearly, the best way to reduce college spending and borrowing is to get a degree within 4 years. To help reach this goal, here are five things you should coach and coax your student to do:

(1) Complete the heaviest possible course load every semester. The math is simple. Let’s say your student is in a degree program that requires 120 semester credit hours for completion. Absent transfer or credit-by-exam hours (see below), he or she will need to enroll in and successfully conclude an average of 15 hours per semester in order to graduate in 4 years.

Some colleges offer what might be called “flat rate tuition” to students who register for more than a certain number of credit hours. Under such an arrangement, your student would pay the same amount to take, for example, 15 or 18 hours per semester as 12 hours per semester. Urge your student to check into this with his or her academic advisor.

And remember, the objective is not just to register for courses, but to successfully finish them. Dropping a course not only lengthens time to degree but, even worse, you pay for it again if your student must pass it to graduate. So urge your student to avoid dropping courses if at all possible.

(2) Take courses that fulfill requirements for graduation. Yes, college is a place for exploration and self-discovery. But it’s a mighty expensive place to explore and discover to much. So you may want to urge your student to forgo courses that “might be fun” or “sound interesting” unless they also apply to core (i.e. out-of-major) or major (i.e. within major) requirements. Fortunately, many colleges and universities offer a broad menu of courses that fulfill such requirements.

(3) Transfer college credits in. While in high school, did your student successfully finish any “dual credit” courses through a community college? Did he or she pass any AP tests? If so, many colleges will accept those credits — especially as substitutes for their core requirements. So if your student has not already transferred them in, suggests that he or she go to the registrar’s office and arrange to do so.

Likewise, one way to stay on track for a 4 year degree is to transfer summer courses from local community colleges back to the schools at which students are seeking their degrees. Tuition at community colleges is lower than at 4-year institutions and, since your student can live at home, there’ll be no room and board to pay during the summer. Also, community college students can usually complete 6-10 summer credit hours even as they work part-time to save money for the rest of the school year. But note — it is important check with an academic advisor ahead of time to ensure that community college credits transferred in will count toward core or major requirements at the 4-year school. Otherwise, all summer enrollment does is generate extra tuition costs.

(4) Don’t transfer your student out if you can avoid it. Remember, if your student transfers to another college or university, chances are he or she won’t get credit at that institution for all courses completed at his or her current school. This creates another situation in which your student will have to take (and pay for) some of the same courses multiple times. Of course, if your student’s current school turns out to be a horrible fit, it may be necessary to transfer elsewhere but, if he or she can stick it out until graduation, urge your student to do so.

(5) Test out of courses if possible. Many colleges and universities have on-campus testing centers. For a relatively small fee, your student may be able go to this center and gain credit-by-exam in certain subjects. Credit-by-exam substitutes for full-tuition classroom courses — especially those applicable to core requirements. This can help your student lighten his or her semester course load while speeding time to degree.

It may not be easy for your student to implement these strategies. Extra effort and sacrifice is often required. Your student may not have as much time to socialize as much as others do. He or she may need to spend extra night and weekend hours studying. And he or she may have to persist in some difficult situations.

You’ll probably need to provide lot of encouragement and support, so don’t forget those “care packages,” phone calls, and visits! But it’ll be worth it — for both you and your student. Those who graduate within 4 years, save tens of thousands of dollars by forgoing extra college expenses and, not surprisingly, at least one study shows that such students incur  35% less debt than those who finish in 5 years.

A 4-year graduate starts his or her career 12 months earlier than 60% of his or her peers, leading to a much faster yield of college educated wages – which currently average more than $1,100 a week or $59,000 a year. So there are definite and tangible payoffs to graduating within 4 years. You’re most likely the person to whom your student listens the most, so you can help those payoffs become realities!

College Affordability Solutions brings 40 years experience to coaching families about these and other higher education affordability measures. Call (512) 366-5354 or email collegeafford@gmail.com to learn more.

Is Borrowing for College Worthwhile?

You’ve counted the grant and scholarship dollars your student’s been awarded. You’ve added in your college savings account. And you’ve figured how much you can afford to send on your student out of your monthly paycheck. But there’s still a gap. You’re not alone. Like 69% of his or her peers, your student is probably going to have to borrow to attend college.

Americans are wary of college loans, and with good reason. We owe $1.3 trillion in educational debt. Thirty percent of our student borrowers are ruining their credit ratings because they’re behind on their payments. The other 70% sometimes live diminished lifestyles so they can afford pay their student loan bills.

But believe it or not, there is actually something worse than graduating from college with student debt, and that’s not graduating from college!

In 2014, the average student borrower earned a bachelor’s degree after having borrowed $28,950. Under the absolutely worst case scenario, it would cost $47 thousand to repay this amount at today’s interest rates. But census data show that Americans with bachelor’s degrees average $964 thousand more in earnings than those with high school diplomas. Is it worth a $47 thousand investment to earn $964 thousand? You bet! And since 64% of today’s new jobs require a college education, college borrowing should be viewed as just that — an investment.

Still, it’s just plain dumb to run up an unmanageable amount of educational debt. Fortunately, there are many ways to avoid this. See 10 Strategies for Limiting College Debt to learn more.

College Affordability Solutions has 40 years of experience in helping families pay for college. To find out if we can help you, call (512) 366-5354 or email collegeafford@gmail.com.